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Here's What Kansas City Voters Need To Know About The Sales Tax On Tuesday's Ballot

Julie Denesha
The Buck O'Neil Bridge, formerly the Broadway Bridge, is nearing the end of its useful life. City leaders want to use part of a sales tax renewal on Tuesday's ballot to build a new one.

Last year was a busy one for elections in Kansas City, Missouri.

Between approving a new airport terminal, deciding the future of a streetcar extension, and agreeing to property tax hikes for a 20-year, $800 million infrastructure package, Kansas City voters made some big decisions about the city's future.

Next week's election is much more low-key. On Tuesday, voters will be asked to renew a one percent sales tax for 20 years to fund capital improvements across the city.

Revenue from the tax is split three ways:

About 35 percent goes to neighborhood projects, with that money divided evenly between the six city council districts. Neighborhood groups can apply for funding for projects such as playgrounds or parks, which are approved the Public Improvements Advisory Committee (PIAC) before getting a final vote from the city council. 

A quarter of the sales tax revenue is reserved for street re-surfacing and repair, including making streets more accessible for pedestrians and bicycles. 

The biggest bucket of money, about 40 percent, is for maintenance of existing infrastructure.

Last year, voters authorized $800 million bonds for infrastructure, known as GO bonds. Whereas that money is designated to build or re-build large infrastructure projects, revenue from the sales tax is intended for maintenance of those projects. 

A new component of this year's sales tax renewal is $5 million per year that may be used to replace the aging Buck O’Neil Bridge. Opened in 1957 as the Broadway Bridge, it is nearing the end of its useful life, according to the Missouri Department of transportation.

Although the bridge is a state asset, MODOT says it does not have the funding to replace it.

Without money from the city, the state could only make repairs, which would close the important connector between downtown and the Northland for two years. 

City communications director Chris Hernandez says that solution wouldn't work for the city. Each day, about 40,000 cars cross the bridge over the Missouri River on U.S. 169. 

"With the local match, we're pushing to get a solution that works for Kansas City, which would be a brand new bridge, so the old bridge can stay open while the new bridge is built," Hernandez says. 

Hernandez says along with a state match, regional partners would also contribute funding. 

City council members approved the plan to help fund a new bridge in February, although some object to spending any city money on a state asset. 

The sales tax needs a simple majority, or 51 percent, to pass.

Lisa Rodriguez is a reporter and the afternoon newscaster for KCUR 89.3. Follow her on Twitter @larodrig

Slow news days are a thing of the past. As KCUR’s news director, I want to cut through the noise, provide context to the headlines, and give you news you can use in your daily life – information that will empower you to make informed decisions about your neighborhood, your city and the region. Email me at lisa@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @larodrig.
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