The year 2016 might seem far away — another presidential election away.
The year 2016 might seem far away — another presidential election away. But some Leavenworth County officials Wednesday stressed the importance of looking that far ahead in planning and encouraging future growth in the county. During a monthly meeting of the Leavenworth County Port Authority, representatives from the city and county of Leavenworth and the city of Lansing all said that at least part of the key to ensuring some larger projects get done hinges on the renewal of the countywide 1-cent sales tax. Voters in the county have renewed that tax twice now, first in 1997 and most recently extending it for another decade starting in 2006. The proceeds from the tax have been used to fund projects like the Justice Center, the upgrades to County Road 1 that connected to a new interchange on the Kansas Turnpike and the countywide emergency communications upgrade. Leavenworth City Manager Scott Miller said the city is about to begin its 2012-2017 capital improvements program next week. As of right now, he said he’s not counting on the city’s $3.2 million share of the sales tax in the funding for the CIP. “If it does come about to be continued, then we can put those funds back in,” he said. “I’m not going to that money in the CIP for projects if its not going to materialize.” Though it’s early in the process, most leaders at the meeting Wednesday seemed to support another campaign to renew the tax. Current County Commission Chairman John Flower said situations like the city’s highlight that communities in Leavenworth County need to start working now toward the renewal of the sales tax. “It is absolutely critical,” he said, later adding, “and we’re starting to talk.” Flower said communities working together is the one thread in many of the county’s past successes. He said he felt it was a good idea in the short term for the county to call a meeting of those stakeholders and begin to come up with a specific, unified vision for what the sales tax revenues would be used on, if approved this time around. “It is such a benefit to this county that we need to be thinking about what are those projects we’re going to go forward with and what do they mean to the citizenship?” he said. According to Flower, the county should probably have a long-term plan for using the sales tax ready for 2015. Holding an election in 2015 could be beneficial, he said, by allowing the communities a year to regroup if the first vote fails. For now, Mayor Ken Bernard of Lansing and Miller agreed that the communities should start getting ideas together. Steve Jack, executive director for the Leavenworth County Development Corporation, said he was willing to help as well. “We’re there for you and we want to be with you on whatever activities that we can do,” he said.