When the Kansas City Fire Dept. first proposed a sales tax increase to the city council earlier this year, a neighborhood association leader, Kathy Presley, did not support it.
Now that the COVID-19 pandemic is underway and Kansas City is considered a hot spot, Presley is concerned the city’s needs may not be met if the issue does not pass.
Voters will be asked to weigh in on whether or not to increase the current KCMO Fire Department sales tax during a special election to be held June 2. If the issue passes, the sales tax would double from a quarter cent to a half cent, beginning Jan. 1. 2021.
The tax, which would expire in December 2036, is estimated to generate $80 million per year for a total of $315 million. The revenue will provide a wide range of updated equipment like personal protective equipment, ambulances, hoses, air monitoring equipment, radio replacements and more for the fire department. The tax will also be used for renovations for fire stations, which include repairing a parking lot, creating gender neutral bathrooms, building new roofs and other renovations.
While there are concerns about an increase to the sales tax for low income people, Presley said “(Low-income people) can’t necessarily afford it, but what they can’t afford is not having first responders available to come to their rescue and you can’t put a price on that.”
Still unsure of how she will vote, Presley said it would be ideal if the sales tax was added to everything excluding food. As a result, the bulk of the sales tax is shifted to those who choose to spend money on non-necessities.
Others believe the ballot issue is concerning for low-income people who are already struggling during the coronavirus pandemic. Angie Lile, active in the Coalition for Kansas City Economic Development Reform said the tax increase would disproportionately affect poor people just as last year’s Pre-K sales tax increase of a cent would have if it was passed.
The sales tax increase may especially impact those low-income people living in food deserts or places where it can be difficult to purchase affordable food. “For most people that (sales tax increase) wouldn’t make a big difference,” said Jane Parks, with the Coalition for Kansas City Economic Development Reform. “But the people it would make a difference to are low-income people.”
Kansas City voters will be able to vote in person June 2. Polling places are taking safety measures to ensure the health of voters by ensuring proper social distancing and sanitization.