Archive for Thursday, October 8, 2009

City council balks at sales-tax pitch from committee

A committee formed to advise the Baldwin City Council on "quality of life" items for the upcoming sales tax ballot told the Baldwin City Council Monday that trails and improving parks were the top two items. Restrooms are needed at all current parks, the council was told, including the newest park shown here in FireTree Estates that was built by volunteers.

A committee formed to advise the Baldwin City Council on "quality of life" items for the upcoming sales tax ballot told the Baldwin City Council Monday that trails and improving parks were the top two items. Restrooms are needed at all current parks, the council was told, including the newest park shown here in FireTree Estates that was built by volunteers.

October 8, 2009

A committee charged with making recommendations on how to spend money from a proposed new quarter-cent sales tax did that Monday. But the Baldwin City Council wasn’t buying.

Ginny Honomichl, retired long-time teacher and coach at Baldwin High School, represented the committee, which determined that the top two “quality of life” items needed are trails connecting the city and improvements — such as parking, restrooms and water — at current parks. The council has proposed that the new sales tax be used for “quality of life” items, while the present half-cent sales tax should be renewed and used for infrastructure improvements.

Honomichl told the council the committee considered many items, but weighed opinion heavily on a survey done last year that had 170 responses and identified the needs they suggested. She also said there is grant money available to pay for 80 percent of the trails. She also said that voters needed to know what the money from the sales tax will be used for if approved during the Nov. 3 election where the half-cent and quarter-cent sales tax questions will be on the ballot.

“Why, as a retired person on a fixed income, should I vote for these sales tax questions?” said Honomichl, noting that the school district went out of its way to inform voters regarding the $22.9 million bond issue that narrowly passed last year. “I find it hard to believe there are people out there willing to give you more money when you don’t say what it’s for.”

She was supported by Steve Friend, director of the Baldwin City Recreation Commission, who was on the committee and also conducted the survey.

“These two things are going to have the biggest impact on people,” said Friend. “I think this is what we need to sell this sales tax on.”

Mayor Ken Wagner thanked Honomichl and the committee for their work and recommendations, but didn’t think the council should vote to follow the suggestions.

“I really understand the need for specificity, but when we get too specific, it’s a problem,” said Wagner, citing the half-cent sales tax that voters approved in 2000 to build the swimming pool, but that will sunshine when the pool is paid off early. “The pool was specific and it was paid off and it’s (the tax) over.

“I think the citizens of Baldwin City will have to trust city councils to spend their money wisely,” he said, adding that there’s interest in library expansion as well as many other “quality of life” items. “I would support some of the money going to those issues (trails and parks). I think the council will have to do a lot of juggling. We haven’t even seen the parks master plan. I don’t think it’s responsible of us to give you a vote tonight on those two items.”

Honomichl said the committee was doing what it was charged with.

“We asked,” she said. “I am always concerned about informing the public. Vagueness scares me. I don’t like vagueness.”

Two council members gave their views on the sales tax.

“If we don’t have this sales tax, we can’t have any of this,” said Bonnie Plumberg. “We want to do all of these projects. I don’t know which one comes first.”

Council Member Ted Brecheisen, Jr., had a different view of “quality of life.”

“The sales tax will be used to bring the mill levy down,” said Brecheisen. “ ‘Quality of life’ also has to do with being able to afford to live here. I’m not one to commit to rails to trails. We’re looking at raising electrical rates. We’re starting to talk about taking care of what we have.”

Currently, Baldwin City’s sales tax rate of 7.3 cents is lower than that of most area towns. Gardner’s is at 8.25 cents, Ottawa’s is at 7.9, Lawrence’s 7.85 and Eudora’s 7.3. If the present half-cent tax ends, Baldwin City’s rate would dip to 6.8 cents.

Wagner assured the committee that the tax money would be used properly.

“This council will be responsible stewards of this money if it passes and your projects will be considered,” said Wagner.

The council also heard a report from Steve Wilson, president of the Baldwin City Golf Association, regarding the use of the Baldwin City Municipal Golf Course. He documented the use of various groups other than golfers, such as high school and college cross country runners.

“I think the general public and maybe the council thinks it’s (golf course) under utilized, but there are lots of events there,” said Wilson.

He was asking that instead of the usual one-year lease that the council would grant a five-year lease to allow for future planning.

“We’re here, it’s not tax related, we’re not asking for money,” said Wilson. “All we’re asking for is more time. We’d like a five-year lease.”

Friend, the recreation director, said he doesn’t see a problem with a longer lease for the 66-acre property.

“We’re not opposed to the five-year lease at all,” said Friend. “We have lots to do before we can tackle the golf course property.”

Wagner referred the request to the community development committee.


Torch 10 years, 11 months ago

The fact that Baldwin's sales tax rate would be lower than surrounding cities would be a good thing.


501gdm2 10 years, 11 months ago

It's time to send the council and the school a message! It's time to tighten the spending instead of spending more! When you are on fixed income, and no social security increase for next two years, and it seems like the city and school are spending like nothing is going on! Wake UP!


kermit 10 years, 11 months ago

OK--don't vote for the sales tax. But please then don't complain when there is no money to maintain the parks, expand the library or provide walking trails/sidewalks around town. That is what part of this money is earmarked for. No sales tax increase= no improvements. If you are ok with that then vote no but please don't sit in the local coffee shops whining about the deterioration of our city. Also don't be surprised when the city is forced to increase the mill levy because the money is required for infrastructure projects that have to be done. Unless of course you are ok with sewers backing up and bridges collapsing..... Just seems to me a sales tax is a whole lot better than a mill levy increase.


NanCrisp 10 years, 11 months ago

Ginny Honomichl is right that voters/taxpayers should be able to vote for specific items we want funded. Simply voting for a sales tax extension along with a sales tax increase on the "hope" that it will result in a mill levy decrease is not enough at this stage of the game. Taxpayers everywhere have written too many blank checks. Personally, I will only vote yes for extending the sunsetting sales tax if it equates directly to a mill levy decrease or at the very least to a mill levy that does not increase. I will not vote to support new spending (such as trails and public restrooms) at this point in time. A year from now, two years, maybe it will make sense to move forward with the nice-to-haves. Right now, the only spending that should be happening is that which protects the integrity of city infrastructure. The marketing model that says communities need to add services and facilities in order to attract new residents does not hold water in an economy in which people are far more concerned with putting food on the table and being able to heat/cool their homes than they are worried about whether or not there is a jogging trail in their neighborhood or a public restroom at the park across the street. Today, people who are moving around (there aren't very many) are looking for a low cost of living. We don't have that in B.C. and won't be able to provide it as long as our eyes continue to be bigger than our wallets.


beevo 10 years, 11 months ago

It has been stated that additional sales tax money is needed. But where is it needed? The Baldwin City Council sounds like they are planning a carefree fishing trip; paid for by you, the people of Baldwin. The Baldwin City Council doesn’t even know where they should spend this, “much needed”, tax money! Does the city really need it, I doubt it! Mayor Ken Wagner said, “I think the citizens of Baldwin City will have to trust city councils to spend their money wisely,” That is like the saying, “We are the IRS and we are here to help you!” What a line of bull. There has never been any real accountability and that is exactly why it is so expensive to live here? Council Member Ted Brecheisen, Jr seems to be the only council member who has any idea of what the citizens of Baldwin City really need; LESS CITY GOVERNMENT SPENDING! Bring down the outlandishly expensive taxes, water and electric rates. Let Baldwin City be a location where regular folks can once again afford to live. Baldwin is not Blue Valley.


Stacy Napier 10 years, 11 months ago

We don't need walking trails in this city, We need sidewalks. How about improving what we have instead of building new.

How many streets in this city don't have sidewalks or curbs. How many that do need repair?


greyghost 10 years, 11 months ago

Trust the city council? Ha! I don't trust the Mayor, let alone the council. "Umm, give us some of your money and we'll come up with some things to spend it on. We don't know what, but it'll be SOMETHING you will want. Trust us!" HAAaAAhHAHHHAHAHHAHHhhaahhHAHHAHH........... ROTMFFLMFAO


crzyidea 10 years, 11 months ago

I would vote yes to continue the "pool tax" if it were to be the "electrical tax" and allocated completely to the electrical plant. I would even consider the additional tax if it too were to go towards paying off the electrical plant early or other long term bond, BUT there has to be an end to the tax. That is my quality of life that needs some assistance, my costs of living here. What about those on the fixed incomes I keep hearing about during discussions? Let us give those some assistance with the utility bills.

I may be incorrect, but I believe the taxes on alcohol already go towards the parks and quality of life projects. Someone correct me if I am wrong. Is that not how we now have the playground/park at Firetree?

I would also like to see and ending of the taxes at the time of payoff, just like the pool. That way the sales tax would go back down, or .... WE the citizens would have a CHOICE to continue the sales tax for something else deemed necessary at that time.

I will vote no to both of these sales taxes unless there is an end date of what the revenue will be spent on.

PLEASE Do not rush to judgement on this issue!! If WE the citizens do not like the plan for these taxes, vote NO and force the Council to come before us with a new and better plan. Unlike the school where they made a rush to judgemnet decision with our money. There is no price for due diligence and spending OUR money wisely.

I am not against having this consumer tax help pay for the infrastructure of Baldwin, I just want to keep the control with the Citizens and not have to trust future Councils to be good stewards of our money.


hipgrrrrl 10 years, 11 months ago

Sigh. I suppose I should just get used to politicians making crazy requests for trust. Based on a plethora of examples, it's clear we can't trust a local administration of make choices for us with our money. Cases in point: The immense amount of pork in the latest school mill levy (remember one of the given reasons for the new auditorium? "If we want to teach our students/community how to conduct themselves properly, they need a proper space."). The design of the existing IC - heck, the existance of the IC is pretty questionable. The refusal of current administration to consider reusing rather than building. Of course, I'm picking on the school administration. I just haven't lived here long enough or paid enough attention to know about the bad choices made by the previous City Council :). However, again, Mr. Wagner's stating the continuation of the sunsetting pool tax is a "need" makes me believe that his take on a true necessity is highly questionable.

Please note (previously posted) that Mayor Wagner has made several very specific statements regarding the assumption that the bulk of our sales taxes are collected from out-of-towners ("I think the majority of the $170,000 comes from people coming into town.") even though the Baldwin City Comprehensive Plan of 02/2008 states:

“Baldwin City retains .61 cents of every dollar (the Pull Factor) and leaks .39 cents out to other cities and towns. This dollar retention is incredibly high for a small community in competition with about a 580,000 population metropolitan area on its door step. It indicates that almost all low order goods (day to day and normal household/auto purchases) are retained in the community.”

If they raise the sales tax further, perhaps Baldwinites will rebel and stop supporting local businesses - and then Mayor Wagner's faulty presumption will be found to be true. How sad that would be for the folks around here who rely on our spending to make a living.

It did occur to me that in order to walk over to any of the new walking trails, I would be tripping and stumbling over the existing cruddy sidewalks all the way there.

Please note the following, Mr. Mayor. I don't want to pay more money for the priviledge of living in Baldwin City. My electric, water and property rates are high and now I'm being told that having the lowest local sales tax is a BAD thing? Where do I get I a break, Mr. Mayor? I have to suggest that the City Council come up with a better plan - and please put the brakes on those who are relentless in their drive to turn Baldwin City into a Little Lenexa with my dollar. Be specific about your plan(s) and don't be too insulted when I demand that you stop making condescending requests of me " trust [my] city council(s) to spend [my] money wisely..."

On the positive side, reading Mayor Wagner's input on this issue sure did make me laugh :).


AncientBaldwin 10 years, 11 months ago

Repairs are always going to be a part of life in any town. If that is what the tax is for, spell it out. I agree with an ealier post saying this isn't the time for "prettying up". The downtown renovation, while needed, IMHO overreached, literally, it is difficult to check for traffic at a few of the downtown stop signs, due to those pretty lobes they decided to extend at each corner. There was a time, not terribly long ago when Baldwin was thriving with downtown shops, the Arts and the like. Right now all roads do not lead to Baldwin, and it's time to accept we aren't the next gardner...and be very darn happy about that. I think applying the tax to the electric plant paydown would be great. As it stands, if this is a tax for the sake of taxing, no thanks. Geez small town governments are amateur.


greyghost 10 years, 11 months ago

"I just want to keep the control with the Citizens and not have to trust future Councils to be good stewards of our money. " -- crzyidea

That's the thing. Our current council consists of three that were elected and two that were cronies. Who knows who'll be there in 2011?


TeaBagger 10 years, 11 months ago

"That's the thing. Our current council consists of three that were elected and two that were cronies." - greyghost

And one of them is a thief and a liar. He wasn't even properly "appointed" to the council since the votes weren't properly counted. It was an illegal vote and he is "serving" illegally. But hey, who cares, right? He's a friend of the Mayor's and that's all that matters.

I'm sure the only reason he wanted to be on the Council was so he could be on the take. He undoubtedly wants you to vote for the sales taxes so there will be plenty more for him to steal.


sparky 10 years, 11 months ago

This seems kind of funny. The council keeps saying that they need money to pay for the shortcomings and the mis-spending of previous councils. Then they say, just give us the money and trust that we will spend it wisely, that's what we're elected for.


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