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Monday
November 23rd, 2020

city commission 1 cent sales taxLiberal Vice Mayor Taylor Harden, right, and commissioner Ron Warren listen to part of the presentation about the question that will be on the ballot in November for citizens regarding the renewal of the 1-cent sales tax. L&T photo/Elly GrimmELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times

 

The 1-cent sales tax will be up for renewal for Liberal citizens in November and Tuesday evening, the Liberal City Commission took a first look at the question that will be posed to voters on the ballot. 

The first iteration of the 1-cent sales tax was approved in 1993 and with its current five categories (Streets, Drainage & Other Capital Improvements, Crime Prevention, Housing, Economic Development, and Beautification), was designed to be an enhancement to the city’s budget and go above and beyond annual needs and projects. The tax was approved for an extension again in 2000, and the current iteration of the 1-cent sales tax was approved in 2010.

“As you know, there have been a lot of meetings about this, and there have been a lot of hours spent trying to get this question together,” City Attorney Lynn Koehn said. “Tonight’s meeting is the initial reading and discussion of the proposed question, and the commission’s Aug. 11 meeting will feature the final reading and approval of the question as presented. After approval, the question will be sent to the county clerk. I slightly apologize, I know the city manager wanted the question to be a little shorter, but with everything under consideration, that wasn’t really an option because it has to be specific to what we’re using that sales tax for. A big thing I took away from my conversations with the Focus on the Future Committee is we have to have 5 percent budgeted to maintain the services we do have in effect. The easiest way to do that, according to Mr. Ford, is include a 5 percent amount under each of those items in those different areas. For example, we’ll be using 15 percent for housing and community development – if we get, say, $10,000, $1,500 of that would be set aside specifically for housing and community development projects. I’ve already got the resolution prepared for the Aug. 11 meeting, and we will continue taking recommendations and questions about the sales tax from the community.”

“And I would like for us to emphasize, this is not a new tax, this is a renewal of the 1-cent sales tax we’ve had in place since 1993,” Liberal City Manager Cal Burke said.

The proposed question, Koehn said, would read “Shall the levying of the retailers’ sales tax in the City of Liberal, Kansas be continued in the amount of 1 percent to be effective Oct. 1, 2021 through Sept. 30, 2031, with 60 percent of the proceeds used for Streets, Drainage & Other Capital Improvements, 15 percent of the proceeds used for Economic Development, 5 percent of the proceeds used for Crime Prevention and similar programs, 15 percent of the proceeds used for Housing and Community Development, and 5 percent of the proceeds used for Beautification, with 5 percent of each budgeted item allocated for maintenance.”

“That will be put on the agenda as a resolution for the next meeting and I encourage anyone in the community with any questions or anything to come and share your thoughts and opinions,” Koehn said. “I like how the question turned out, I think it directly encompasses what Focus on the Future is trying to do with the sales tax. The resolution is already prepare and will be on the next meeting’s agenda.”

“I want to voice my appreciation for all the work that has been done with this,” Focus on the Future Committee Chairman Ivanhoe Love Jr. said. “This is one of the most critical things for our community and it will help us continue to do projects throughout the community for the community’s benefit. And as has been said before, this is not a new tax, this is a continuation of a tax that has been around for more than 20 years, to lose it would be extremely detrimental to the community. Thank you all again for all the work you’ve put into this, and I also want to thank all the members of the Focus on the Future Committee for everything they did in getting all of this together. What you’re seeing here is the voice of the people and what they want to see done.”

The commission also unanimously approved grant funding from the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) for public transportation. The first is a storage facility to be built to store transit buses and vans, which will also include offices, a break room and rest room facilities. KDOT will be  funding 80 percent of the facility, $600,000, and the City will pay the remaining 20 percent, $150,000. The second grant is for cameras and shelters, and will provide five cameras for each bus and three cameras for each van and bus shelter improvements for 10 bus stops. KDOT is funding 80 percent, $64,000, and the City of Liberal will pay the remaining 20 percent, $16,000. The commission also unanimously approved adding $25,000 to the Façade Grant 2020 funds. 

“My department manages the Façade Grant funds and our budge coming into this year was only $16,000,” Economic Development Director Cindy Wallace said. “We opened this up to all businesses and since then, we’ve gotten a lot of other applications and I’d like to ask for an additional $25,000 to be allocated for these projects to last us for the rest of the year.”

“I like how we opened this up, I always found it slightly unfair how only businesses on Kansas Avenue were eligible,” Liberal Mayor Connie Seigrist said. 

To conclude the meeting, the commission also unanimously approved an increase in the petty cash account for the Sports Tourism Department from $5,000 to $10,000, which would allow for an expedition of payment to officials, scorekeepers and others involved in local athletic events, and the commission also unanimously approved a motion to take over the operations of the Griff Golf Course from Kids Inc.

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