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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Letter: Questions on sales tax vote

  • Today I received the Leavenworth City Commissioners' plan to pass a one-percent sales tax increase in the city to use the money for general purposes.
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      Comment
  • To the editor:
    Today I received the Leavenworth City Commissioners' plan to pass a one-percent sales tax increase in the city to use the money for general purposes. As I review this flyer, it really brings out the real attitudes of our city commissioners.
    First, let's look at their reasons for the mail voting ballot. To vote, you and I must use a nontraditional voting method by mailing the ballot to the Leavenworth County Clerk's Office. My thought is, once I place my ballot in the mail, how do I know it was received, and most importantly, counted? Do I receive a receipt to verify my vote?
    What keeps someone from delaying, or worse, throwing my vote out? When I go to a poll to vote, I get my name checked off the voting list, I see friends and others, and most importantly, I know I voted and I know it was counted.
    It's not that I don't trust others to do their job, but by going to the voting poll, I know that I did my patriotic duty to participate in the decision-making process of our government.
    Second, the commissioners may be sincere in telling us that approving a sales tax may reduce property taxes in 2015, but wasn't the Kansas Legislature sincere when it passed the recent state sales tax law with a sunset, only to have a new governor reverse the sunset and now we have to continue to pay the sales tax?
    It's interesting some think only property owners pay property taxes.
    Do renters not pay property tax when they pay their rent? Don't shoppers help pay property tax with their purchase?
    For those who think sales tax is more fair than property taxes, consider this. City commissioners appear to believe increasing the sales tax, a regressive tax, is a fair way of taxing citizens. By taking a closer look, it's easy to see that such a tax causes middle and lower income citizens to pay a larger share of their income than wealthier citizens pay. If city commissioners would consider exempting food and other necessities from sales taxes, considering poor people spend a higher proportion of their incomes on these commodities, such exemptions would make the sales tax more progressive.
    Many retailers argue that taxes discourage retail sales. Exempting food and other necessities may cause people from outside of Leavenworth to come here to purchase groceries and other necessities to save money.
    Another thing city commissioners could consider is to plan sales tax holidays.
    For example, in August, before the start of public school, exempt sales tax for three days on school supplies and clothes.
    A total package like this could bring even more shoppers to Leavenworth, who may make additional purchases as they save money preparing to send their children to school.
    Page 2 of 2 - A win-win for everyone — residents, retailers and city revenue.
    Third, sales taxes apply to the sale of goods and not services. This makes the sales tax burden uneven between professions and the industry sections of our economy. I know commissioners are more interested in raising sales tax than property tax because they know the public is made aware annually of how much property taxes they pay because it is determined at tax time and they see it on their tax statement.
    Once a year taxpayers receive this information, which can be used to hold elected officials accountable. But, voters receive no such information on how much sales taxes they have paid.
    Sales tax doesn't replace property tax revenues — it just augments them without requiring annual reports. This is why commissioners prefer sales tax.
    When you read the small print of the city's website, you see the commissioners have earmarked the first half of the 2014 extra property tax money of $1.2 million as their stabilization funds. These are funds the commissioners plan to stockpile and are legitimate tax funds but may be used for planned and unplanned luxury pet projects outside of their legal budget.
    Commissioners should explain what the stabilization funds are and they must be obligated to give us some direction as to how they could spend the money.
    These funds could be rainy day funds or they could be fun money. Whatever it is, $1.2 million is no small matter and requires an explanation.
    I'd like to mention a very famous parable, "Beware of those bearing gifts," for they may not be what your city commissioners want you to think they are.
    Please ask for further explanation of their plan and how they plan to spend our money.
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