Don’t Want Your Taxes Funding the Streetcar? Too Late
Kansas City collects a 1-cent sales tax to fund the Public Improvements Advisory Committee (PIAC). According to the city’s website:
If a business, organization or neighborhood has a need for capital improvements (sidewalks, water and sewers, road improvements, storm water runoff, etc.), they are encouraged to submit a project request form.
An article in the Kansas City Business Journal stated:
According to documents from Kansas City’s Public Works Department, the city’s 3rd and 4th districts have committed a combined $1.89 million of their capital improvement sales tax revenue for fiscal 2014 to fiscal 2016 to conduct the corridor planning study for the second phase of the streetcar.
The documents, signed by Kansas City Council members Jermaine Reed and Melba Curls of the 3rd District and Jan Marcuson and Jim Glover of the 4th District, commit $270,000 from the 3rd and $360,000 from the 4th each year for the next three fiscal years.
That is $270,000 for the streetcar from the 3rd District for a project that barely run in the district (approximately 30 blocks exclusively in the 3rd). And $1.2 million that won’t be spent on 4th District “sidewalks, water and sewers, road improvements, storm water runoff, etc.” Some argue that a problem with the streetcar funding scheme is that it taxes some people in order to build something for everyone. That same criticism could be leveled against PIAC, which divides funds up by council district rather than taking a holistic look at city needs. Councilmembers may be tempted to think of their PIAC allotment as a type of political slush fund.
Aside from how the money is divided up, it is wrong that money earmarked for important and necessary capital improvements is being diverted to support a planning study for the streetcar.
The city is already planning to raise sales taxes by 1 percent in most of the 3rd and 5th Districts to pay for the construction and operation of the streetcar extension that likely won’t serve any of those taxpayers’ needs. And it is doing so with money taken from things that will serve their needs. If voters think opposing the streetcar tax will save tax dollars for projects that are important to them, they’re too late.