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Kansas City Infrastructure Bond Will Be A 'Big Ask' Of Taxpayers

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Lisa Rodriguez
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KCUR 89.3
An $800 million bond propsal to maintain infrastructure will likely come before Kansas City voters in April. On Wednesday, join city council committees heard a a presentation about the ordinance as well as public testimony.

Keeping roads and bridges maintained in a city as big as Kansas City can be never-ending — and expensive.

That's the reason Kansas City Manager Troy Schulte came before a joint committee meeting of the City Council on Wednesday to advocate for an $800 million bond proposal to address the city's infrastructure needs for the next 20 years. 

The plan, which will likely come before voters on April 4, 2017, includes a property tax increase  over 20 years for the purpose of repairing, rebuilding and maintaining the city's existing infrastructure. 

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Credit City of Kansas City Missouri
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This slide, from City Manager Troy Schulte's presentation, shows the estimated cumulative property tax increase for property owners in Kansas City, Missouri to finance an $800 million bond issue.

For example, an individual who owns a house worth $100,000 would see a $6 increase in their property tax the first year. That number would grow by $6 each year, so that at the end of 20 years, the the property tax bill would be $120 higher. 

The bonds would be issued in $40 million annually over 20 years and paid off with the proceeds with the tax increase. 

Schulte acknowledged it would be a "big ask" of voters, and before the floor opened for public testimony, councilwoman Heather Hall brought up concerns she's heard from constituents about such a long term tax hike. 

“The thing that I've had some people question me about is, 'Well you’re only going to be there so long and you’re making commitments with our money that the next council may not...We may be voting for this based on what you said you’re going to do, and they (the future city council) don’t, so how does that work?'”

Schulte said that ultimately, it’s up to voters to trust the council and their neighbors to hold city officials accountable.  

Several council members voiced other concerns about the flexibility for spending over 20 years, while others said without specific projects, they wouldn't be able to sell a tax increase to voters. 

Between the presentation from the city manager and back and forth between council members, only 30 minutes was left for public testimony. 

Constituents can see the presentation made by the city manager and comment on the proposal at kcmomentum.org

The joint committees will meet again to debate the bond issue at 9:30 a.m. Dec. 15. 

Lisa Rodriguez is a reporter and newscaster at KCUR 89.3. Connect with her on Twitter @larodrig

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