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How Internet Shopping Is Helping Kansas City Pay For More Cops

Sam Zeff
KCUR 89.3
KCPD recruits train on the firing line. Kansas City Council might approve money for a dozen new officers at its meeting Thursday.

As Kansas City council members get ready to approve anew budget, the city finds itself with a couple of million dollars more than expected.

City budget officer Scott Huizenga told the Finance and Governance Committee Wednesday that the city has about $2.5 million extra coming in this fiscal year.

"Most of that is from internet sales tax," Huizenga told the committee. The slight windfall comes in the wake of the Wayfair Supreme Court decision last year, which cleared the way for states and local governments to collect tax on all internet sales.

For Kansas City, that means an extra estimated $1.8 million compared to almost no revenue from sales tax on internet purchases the previous year, Huizenga said. The city collected a total of about $252 million in sales tax last year, according to online budget documents.

The other unforeseen money came from the earnings tax. The city is anticipating a modest hike of $715,000 this fiscal year. That is due to more jobs, according to Huizenga. The city collected $264 million in earnings tax last fiscal year.

The entire city budget is about $1.7 billion.

So what to do with the newly found money?

Some of it will go into reserves, but a chunk is being directed to hiring more police officers.  When the first draft of the budget was released in February, there was no money for additional officers. An amendment Wednesday added ten officers, but with the windfall, the committee decided on two more for a total of a dozen new officers.

Councilman Scott Taylor told the committee that the Kansas City Police Department will never get to the community policing model without more officers. “We all want community policing," Taylor said. "In order to get community policing, there have to be a sufficient number of police officers to have the time to actually do community policing because otherwise, they’re just going from call to call to call.”

Public safety already takes up 76 percent of the city budget. KCPD gets about 56 percent of that pot. The fire department gets about 40 percent. The rest goes to municipal courts.

The Health Department also asked for an additional $400,000 for violence prevention. That money will go to Aim4Peace, a health department effort that treats violent crime as a health issue.

Some of the extra money will go to hire analysts for Aim4Peace and some will go to new programs, budget officer Huizenga said.

City Council is expected to approve the 2019-2020 budget Thursday afternoon.

Correction: Scott Taylor's quote has been updated to more accurately reflect his words.

Sam Zeffis KCUR's metro reporter. You can follow Sam on Twitter @samzeff

You deserve to know what your taxpayer dollars are paying for and what public officials are doing on your behalf – I’ll work to report on irresponsible government spending in the Kansas City area and shed light on controversies that slow government down. And when you hear my voice in the morning, you know you’re getting everything you need to start your day. Email me at sam@kcur.org, find me on Twitter @samzeff or call me at 816-235-5004.
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