Council plans quick action on increasing sales tax
The De Soto City Council will consider a sales tax proposal Thursday with an anticipation of putting the matter before city voters, possibly as early as November.
During its July 19 meeting, the council directed city staff to develop options for a new sales tax.
City Administrator Gerald Cooper proposed the new sales tax during the city council's recent budget deliberations. The sales tax would be dedicated to new infrastructure improvements. The city's current 1-cent sales tax provides revenue for the general fund.
Aware that they would have to move quickly to earn significant revenue from the tax next year, council members indicated last Thursday they would start addressing details of a proposal at the Aug. 2 meeting.
Knowledge that the De Soto school district is moving ahead with a $90 million bond issue also played a part in the council's desire to bring the proposed new sales tax to city voters as soon as possible.
"If people see all those taxes, they might be inclined to say no," council member Tim Maniez said. "Maybe we need to get ours in first."
Although he recommended a 3/4-cent sales tax, Cooper said the council also has the option of asking voters to approve a quarter- or half-cent sales tax. Any new tax would expire in either five or 10 years, he said.
Those options will be more thoroughly explored during the Aug. 2 meeting, Cooper said.
A 3/4-cent hike would increase De Soto's overall (state, county and city) sales tax rate to 7.625 for every $1 sale. That would be higher than the 7-cent sales tax charged in Shawnee, Lenexa, Overland Park and Olathe, City Clerk Lana McPherson said.
Still, Cooper predicted that would have a negligible effect on sales.
"We don't have the big-ticket items like cars and appliances where that is a consideration," he said.
The proposed tax has earned the initial endorsement of De Soto Chamber of Commerce President Pat Atchison.
"I think we need it," she said. "There's a lot of work that needs to be done."
That will be the message city council members will take to residents as the measure moves toward a vote. A five-year capital improvement plan city engineer Mike Brungardt is developing will enhance that message, Cooper said.
"That will show them what they will get for their money," the city administrator said.
The sales tax would allow the city to stretch its road improvement dollars by participating in County Assisted Road System Program, Cooper said. The so-called CARS program matches county revenue with local dollars for street improvements.
"We're not really able to participate in CARS," Cooper said. "We have to spend so much on maintenance, we haven't had any projects that really qualified for matching funds, other than the 95th Street project."
The capital improvement plan should be completed in four to five weeks, Brungardt said. The city engineer did provide the council with a list of projects that will be included.
An asphalt remilling and overlay of 83rd Street from Shawnee to Miller Park would be part of the plan's first year, Brungardt said.
In future years, the plan will provide for the asphalt repaving and rebuilding of other old-town streets on a regular rotation, he said.
Other high priority projects would include a new water tower and water lines, Brungardt said.
The council will also consider a proposal that would limit parking in De Meadows and West Meadows subdivisions to one side of the street. About 20 people took advantage of a July 19 hearing on the proposal, to express concerns.
Most speakers were in favor of the proposal, but others opposed the limitation or suggested modifications.