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Kansas City, Kansas, Residents Vote To Renew Public Safety Tax

Tyler Silvest

Updated August 7, 2018 at 9:50 p.m.

Kansas City, Kansas, residents voted to renew a 3/8 cent public safety sales tax — 60 percent voted in support, while 40 percent opposed tax which was set to expire in 2020.

David Alvey, mayor and CEO of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, told KCUR he was thankful to voters "for having confidence in the Unified Government to use the revenue well to take care of basic needs across the county."

Revenue from the tax is divided between the fire department, the police department and neighborhood improvement projects.

Original post continues below:

Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, residents will decide Tuesday whether they want to keep a ⅜ cent public safety tax.

The sales tax, which has funded the addition of 25 police officers and new public safety equipment, is set to expire in 2020 unless voters renew the tax for an additional ten years.

If the tax isn’t renewed Aug. 7, the Unified Government would look at a property tax increase to make up for the lost revenue, according to a fact sheet on the government’s website.

“I think it would be a combination of budget cuts and then trying to find other sources of revenue which, as most city governments know, they’re just not out there,” David Alvey, mayor and CEO of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, said last month on KCUR’s Up To Date program.

Alvey said the sales tax is beneficial because it reduces the tax burden on Unified Government residents.

“I think what we are trying to do is distribute the burden upon not just on our residents but others who come from outside,” Alvey said.

Over the past decade, the sales tax has raised $80 million, according to Alvey. Thirty-five percent is spent on the fire department, another 35 percent goes toward the police department and 30 percent is for neighborhood improvement projects.

According to an analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Policy, “sales taxes inevi­tably take a larger share of income from low- and middle-income families than from rich families because sales taxes are levied at a flat rate and spending as a share of income falls as income rises.”

“There’s always a question about how you distribute that tax burden,” Alvey said, adding that the Unified Government also had property taxes and user fees.

In 2010, the sales tax was approved with 70 percent of the vote.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story included incorrect information about the amount raised by the sales tax over the course of a decade. 

Aviva Okeson-Haberman is a KCUR news intern. Follow her on Twitter @avivaokeson.

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