Kansas City voters expressed strong support for public transit as they overwhelmingly approved the renewal of a local sales tax to fund public transportation for the next decade.
According to unofficial results, the three-eighths cent sales tax renewal passed with 73% of the vote. Turnout for the election was reported at 10% in the Kansas City portion of Jackson County, with slightly lower percentages of 8% in both Clay County and Platte County.
The renewal of the transit tax means that Kansas City consumers will continue to pay a three-eighths cent sales tax that is crucial revenue for the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA), which relies on the tax to fund its bus, streetcar, and public transit.
Kansas City is the area’s largest financial contributor to the KCATA. The funds collected through this tax constitute close to one-third of KCATA’s revenue. The just-renewed tax has generated approximately $371 million from 2010 to this year.
Had Question 1 failed to pass, the KCATA would have faced significant budget challenges, with KCATA saying they would have had potential layoffs of around 100 workers, reductions in weekend and night service on some routes, and the elimination of some bus routes altogether.
Officials estimate that the renewed tax will bring in about $421 million over the next 10 years, providing a stable financial foundation for the continued operation and improvement of Kansas City’s public transit.
Jackson County Says No to Use Tax
In addition to the transit tax renewal, voters in Jackson County voted on one other tax question. The measure would have added a countywide 1.38% sales tax on purchases of goods sold by out-of-state businesses by mail, online or through catalogs. The county estimated that the tax would have raised $30 million a year. The funds were to be used to fund construction projects including repairs to two county courthouses and fixes to roads and bridges. In addition $5 million of the funds raised were to be set aside for helping the homeless.
The tax failed at the ballot box, with 59% voting against it. Jackson County Executive Frank White opposed the tax, calling it well intentioned, but saying it “did not offer the County the necessary flexibility to manage potential future challenges or unforeseen circumstances.” The issue was forwarded to the ballot on a split vote by the Jackson County Board of Commissioners.
Some have pointed to the vote as a bad omen for the Royals if a downtown site is selected. These are the same supporters whose votes they’ll need to obtain.