As Leavenworth city commissioners move forward with a sales tax referendum, members of the Leavenworth County Commission are expressing concern about the timing of the proposal.
City commissioners are looking at asking voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax increase in Leavenworth. They are proposing the sales tax increase as a way to lower the city's property tax rate, which is the second highest among what are designated as first-class cities in Kansas.
While no official action has been taken to put the issue on a ballot, city commissioners have discussed a possible special election in April.
The proposed sales tax referendum was discussed by county commissioners when they met Thursday. County Administrator Pat Hurley noted that an existing countywide 1-cent sales tax is set to expire in 2016. Revenue from this sales tax is split between the county government and cities in the county.
Hurley said a ballot question seeking the renewal of the this tax likely will be put to voters across the county in 2015.
Hurley questioned how voters in the city of Leavenworth would react to the two sales tax ballot questions coming a year apart.
"They'll just view it as two consecutive 1-cent sales tax increases," he said, even though would be a renewal of an existing tax.
He said the county government receives about $2.5 million per year from its share of the countywide sales tax.
Hurley later said he doesn't know if a ballot measure to renew the tax could be passed by voters in the rest of the county if it's not supported by voters in the city of Leavenworth.
He said the county and cities could be faced with making substantial cuts or raising their property taxes if the countywide sales tax is not renewed.
"I think it's a big risk and a big gamble to be doing it at this time," County Commission Chairman Bob Holland said of the city's sales tax referendum.
Holland said he commends the city commissioners for trying to lower property taxes. But Holland said he's not sure they're taking into account what would happen to all the cities in the county if the countywide sales tax isn't renewed.
"I don't believe some of them can stand that hit," he said.
Commissioners discussed the issue after Hurley raised the topic of a joint meeting with the Leavenworth City Commission. He said the city had offered Oct. 1 or Oct. 15 as possible dates for the joint meeting.
County Commissioner Dennis Bixby suggested the meeting be scheduled sooner rather than later. County commissioners agreed to schedule the meeting for Oct. 1.
Hurley said he will communicate with officials from other cities in the county and advise them of the concern and the fact that the two commissions will be meeting.
Page 2 of 2 - When Leavenworth city commissioners met Tuesday, Mayor Pro-Tem Mark Preisinger raised the issue of possible tax fatigue if voters are asked to approve both ballot issues. He said some people will see the renewal of the countywide sales tax as a raise in taxes.
Preisinger said he wasn't suggesting this was a reason not to proceed with the city sales tax referendum. But he said officials will have to a sales job.
Mayor Laura Janas Gasbarre said she doesn't believe it will require a sales job but rather educating the community.
The city of Leavenworth receives about $2.55 million per year from the existing countywide sales tax, according to city officials.