As we prepare to submit our ballots in Leavenworth regarding the proposed 1-percent sales tax, I find that I am unsure of the right approach to take.
To the editor:
As we prepare to submit our ballots in Leavenworth regarding the proposed 1-percent sales tax, I find that I am unsure of the right approach to take. The promoters argue rather convincingly that approving the tax would raise sorely needed funds to pay for improvements in law enforcement, fire department, rescue equipment/employees, and parks maintenance. By increasing our sales tax rate to one of the highest rates in Kansas and in the United States, we can reduce our property taxes.
I am all for having my property taxes reduced! However, there are some other issues that we also need to consider. Certainly, the sales tax is one of the more fair taxes since all residents pay based on what they spend – the property tax is less fair since those who do not own their residence do not pay. We can argue that it will be passed on to the renter by the landlord but often this is not the case since we presently have a glut of housing in Leavenworth.
My real concern is that taxes are often increased with the argument that we will see decreased taxes in other areas or that the tax increase is only temporary. These arguments are misleading since the tax goes into a general fund which is dispensed as needed. A tax that is designated for a particular use can also mean that taxes from the general fund, being spent on the same area, can be reduced for it, resulting in a larger pool for other things.
Similarly, temporary taxes typically aren't! Remember the 3-year state sales tax increase that is still in place? This is the double-edged sword nature of taxes. While we may see a reduction in property taxes now, once our officials become used to having those funds, they may again raise the mill levy rate on property in order to embrace new needs (real or only desired).
The people have little control over their use other than at the ballot box. I am constantly amazed that we continue to need more and more taxes. I well remember as a child how the town I lived in argued so fiercely for (and against) a tax increase that raised the total sales tax from 3% to 4%. Somehow we had survived on only 3% sales tax! The sales tax, in actual dollars, increases right along with inflation since it reflects the sales prices of groceries and other goods. Now, sales taxes range from 8 – 10 percent from state to state. The sales tax rate should not be increasing unless we are asking our government to do more and more for us! This is the heart of the dilemma – those who do not pay property tax and pay comparatively little income tax, demand that others pay for the services that they want through a tax increase. We should also note that our sales taxes are already higher than our neighbors to the east. With this increase, I would expect more business to flow to other counties or even across the state line where overall costs would be less.
Once we vote for a tax increase, we should consider it as here to stay! Politicians love taxes! The City Commission even used our taxes to send us a flyer to sell us on this new tax! It is our job as the electorate to deny them all but the most essential taxes. Only through that can we exercise control over their actions and our future. I hope you will join me and RETURN YOUR BALLOT, voting NO when this ballot comes to a mailbox near you. And while you are at it, contact your representative on the City Commission and let them know that you also want them to reduce spending and not raise your property taxes. Leavenworth cannot afford anymore taxes. If you don't say no, they will consider your silence as a yes!