Archive for Thursday, September 24, 2009

City council wants to educate voters on sales tax election

The Baldwin City Council voted 4-0 Monday to send proposed changes in the zoning and subdivision regulations back to the planning commission for additional work. In a separate 3-1 vote, the council asked that the commission rethink its new stance on curb and guttering requirements in subdivisions.

The Baldwin City Council voted 4-0 Monday to send proposed changes in the zoning and subdivision regulations back to the planning commission for additional work. In a separate 3-1 vote, the council asked that the commission rethink its new stance on curb and guttering requirements in subdivisions.

September 24, 2009

Getting the word out ahead of the Nov. 3 election on sales tax questions was the main concern for the Baldwin City Council at its meeting Monday night.

Mayor Ken Wagner said that the plan now is for a town hall meeting in mid October, a press release and a direct mail piece to everyone in town to explain the need to continue the current half-cent sales tax, as well as explaining a separate ballot question for an additional quarter-cent sales tax.

“As a governing body and as city government, we need to put the facts out,” said Wagner, who said another public meeting will be Oct. 6 concerning the Parks Master Plan. “Then we’ll have a town meeting in a week to a week and a half on the sales tax.”

No date has been set for the town hall meeting, but several options were discussed. One would have it as a part of the council’s regular Oct. 19 meeting. The other two possibilities are Oct. 20 and Oct. 22.

Wagner then asked the council what was important to get out to the voters.

“The feedback I’m getting is they want specifics,” said Council Member Bonnie Plumberg, regarding what the money would be used for. “I think that’s what the public wants to see.”

Council Member Ted Brecheisen, Jr., said people he talks to don’t understand that the present half-cent sales tax was used specifically to pay off the $1 million-plus swimming pool. The tax generated around $180,000 a year, which was more than expected, and allowed the pool to be paid off early. However, because it was earmarked for only the pool, the tax will end March 31.

“Some people don’t realize that the half-cent tax has gone to the pool,” said Brecheisen. “Some people don’t realize that it wouldn’t affect the city budget.”

The council voted earlier to use the half-cent sales tax to fund infrastructure projects that are looming for the city. If the sales tax isn’t passed, the mill levy would have to be used more for those projects and tax rates would go up. The council has said the quarter-cent tax would go to “quality of life” projects, such as recreation and possibly the library. However, specifics on those projects haven’t been identified.

“At the town hall meeting, we would give them some specifics on the sales tax issues,” said Wagner, adding that would also be included in the direct-mail piece, as well as comparisons to other cities’ sales tax rates.

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.

Council members were torn on the direct-mail effort.

“I question spending the money to do that,” said Brecheisen.

Wagner said he didn’t know how much it would cost, but estimated it would cost less than $1,000.

“I think it’s the best way to ensure that people see the information,” said Council Member Mike Magers.

As for the town hall meeting, concerns were expressed about attendance.

“It’s important when we have the town hall meeting that there are people there on both sides of the sales tax issue,” said Wagner. “I have a concern about attendance, will it be five or will it be 50? I want to get all of the issues out on the table.”

He also briefed the council on the Parks Master Plan meeting that is scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 6 at the American Legion Hall. Wagner also told the council about winterization programs that he’s wanting the city to participate in, one for low-income families that could provide up to $6,500 per home and another that would be for anyone and would consist of low-interest loans.

“I think the two programs have some good opportunities to impact some people on fixed incomes to get help with energy costs,” he said.

Comments

NanCrisp 4 years, 11 months ago

Blowback is such a drag. Too bad those county mill levy numbers had to come out about now. Hmmmm...

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hipgrrrrl 4 years, 11 months ago

I do feel that the Mayor Wagner's verbiage is highly questionable. If the pool is paid for, then the tax put in place to pay for said pool isn't exactly a "...need..." and addressing it as such is falsehood....or perhaps we should just whitewash it and call it a typical political statement :). Regardless, it's shameful.

What I'd like to know is HOW MUCH EXACTLY do out of towners really buy here. There is no way the two adults in this household will vote for that quarter cent tax until somebody does a bit of research - of course, that research will cost money...and it probably won't be accurate, either. I find it offensive that these blanket statements are made with no back up - but are presented as truth and like a no-brainer. Well, I have a brain and I'd like not to patronized by the elected officials of our city...hmmm. Maybe that's the root of the problem. If we renamed Baldwin City just Baldwin, some people might stop expecting their neighbors to pay for the ammenities that tend to go along with city living :).

I would prefer direct mail over those aggravating "robo-calls". Frankly, if I start getting those, I'll vote against everything just on the principal of it :). Council members, please take note.

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solo 4 years, 11 months ago

I am not a big fan of any kind of taxes either. However I see the sense in at least renewing the sales tax that is going to expire. We all must agree we have ongoing infrastructure issues in this town ie. crumbling sidewalks, aging sewer systems, road repair etc. I would certainly like to see the revenue come from a sales tax (that we already are used to) rather than a jump in the mill levy that most certainly will come.

Also I tend to believe out-of-towners spend a whole lot of money in this town thanks to Baker University and to businesses like John Deere , The Three Sisters, and The Lodge (hotel portion) who all attract the majority of their customers from outside the Baldwin city limits. It makes perfect sense to take advantage of those tax dollars.

I also believe it's common sense that Baldwin city residents are not the primary support for any business in this community. Remember--we are talking city residents, about 3800 of us-what about all those folks who call Baldwin home but don't live in the city limits?

I can't believe I am saying this but I will actually vote "yes" for this tax because it just makes sense.

Also happy to hear their will be town hall meeting. Do you think anyone will show up?

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sparky 4 years, 11 months ago

Solo, I agree that we have issues that need addressed. But just increasing the bucket of money available to the city is not the way to do it. It was just stated earlier in the week how much more tax we pay in Baldwin than any where else in the county. So why do they need even more? Shouldn't we take a closer look at where the current funds are spent and re allocate the money we already have, rather than just keep dumping money into the bucket for the city to use? And sure, there would be some funds that come to us from out of towners, but the "Walmart's" of the world make it hard enough to shop local as it is. This is just one more thing that is going to shift the scales even more.

Why is it once you get people to start paying for something i.e. pool tax, turnpike,.... on the promise that once it's paid for, it will go away, that it NEVER goes away. Once it's paid for, the leaders will say, you all are already paying this much, and you won't even notice if we just leave it in there. After all, it's for the greater good.

Not only is the council saying to leave it in there now, they're saying, "lets even up it by 50%." If we weren't already the highest taxed in the area, I might consider voting yes depending on what their reasons may be, but with where we sit right now, there is absolutely no way that I would vote for this.

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solo 4 years, 11 months ago

sparky I do understand what you are saying. I hate the fact we live in the most heavily taxed part of Douglas county. There is no denying that. But the majority of our exorbinant taxes are due taxes to support USD 348, not to our local government. The city has actually lowered the mill levy according to the LJW article.

As a resident of the city who has to deal with the crumbling infrastructure am I to be punished because the entire district voted for this enormous tax hike and now the residents within the city limits feel so overtaxed that they will scream "NO" any time they can?

The problem is that the roads still need to be repaired, the sewers are still backing up--ie.read letter to editor this week ....and the maintanence of the city needs to go on. That money has to come from somewhere and better a sales tax where you can actually have a choice of where to spend your money than a property tax which only gives you the choice to move.

Also let's be intellectually honest here, most of the people I know in Baldwin do a majority of their shopping outside the city limits. For example,even though our grocery store is great and well received ,almost everyone I know say they go to Lawrence, Gardner or Ottawa to do their major grocery shopping at Checkers, HyVee, Dillons, PriceChopper or Super Walmart. Guess what folks? You will still be paying higher sales tax in those communities than you will be here in Baldwin even if you vote to renew this sales tax!!

Where do the citizens of Baldwin go to shop for clothing, cars, appliances, music, electronics, home decor? Certainly not in Baldwin.

My point is that sales tax in this community is generated on the sale of items like restaurant meals,hotel rooms, some groceries and hardware, liquor and other minor purchases. Major purchases that produce high sales tax and really hurt the family budget are not purchased in Baldwin but in communities that have higher sales tax then we would have even with this taxes' passage.

So what is the real harm to most in Baldwin? I still maintain that there is a large percentage of those who purchase the above mentioned items in Baldwin are not actual residents and taxpayers in the city limits.

To be clear. I hate higher taxes. I hate the burden the passage of the bond issue has placed on all of us. However insteading of lashing out and screaming "no" to a new tax because I can and because I am p****d off at the school district, I am trying to be logical about this. Seems to me that this tax renewal is not a bad way to help maintain our city's infrastructure.

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sparky 4 years, 11 months ago

One other thing to keep in mind though. Yes, you probably buy your cars in other cities, but the sales tax you pay on them is based on the city that you live in, not where you purchased it.

I guess I'm still amazed at the fact that we can be paying on THREE different school bonds at the same time. That in itself seems insane to me that the voters would allow it.

You make some good points, I just don't think that I can pull myself to vote for more taxes on top of what we are already being subjected to.

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hipgrrrrl 4 years, 11 months ago

I think solo has some good points. Problem is, the school bonds have been voted in, which means that whether they retain the existing sales tax or not, the cost of living here is high. Too high for a lot of people and too high to continue to be added to.

Do I want a new sidewalk? Ohhhh, yeah. I sure do. However, since I was told by the city almost a year and a half ago that they had me on the "list" to repair the incredibly old and decrepit drainage ditch at the corner of my lot plus the one under my driveway and it has yet to be done, I wonder when and if? Clearly, my sidewalk is a hazard but perhaps not enough of one to be replaced since the city folks were out here looking at my ditch and undoubted saw the sidewalk - which is probably the original one and IS a hazard. Besides, doesn't the City Code specify that homeowners are responsible for their sidewalk, anyway? It's been a long time since I bothered to read that, so I could be wrong.

While it may be a wonderful thought that keeping and/or adding to the existing sales tax is what will allow Baldwin to manage the existing infrastructure, I want to know what it's gonna do for me - besides empty out my wallet a little more. Selfish, I know. Can't deny that, but I'm frustrated. Every time someone reaches into my pocket and oh-so-carefully explains that it's for not only for the greater good, but also my good, it's more difficult to remember what it is about Baldwin that makes it so fabulous.

Sigh. I don't want to pay more money to live in Baldwin. I'll bet all the Baldwin houses on the market that haven't moved for months aren't still sitting there because of sewer/sidewalk/road repairs that may or may not ever occur.

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beevo 4 years, 11 months ago

An increase in sales tax on top of what the exorbitant rates we already pay to the city for water and electricity is just plain unacceptable! We already are paying more than the other towns in Douglas County. I for one am tired of paying extra for the privilege to live in “The Golden” Baldwin City.

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hipgrrrrl 4 years, 11 months ago

Interestingly enough, 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."

So, are we sure that the majority of purchases made in Baldwin City are in fact made by those who live outside of Baldwin City? Food for thought.

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Julie Craig 4 years, 11 months ago

It seems to me that the new landscaping on the corners jutting out from the downtown streets causes a huge traffic hazard. The plants have grown too tall to see around and at 6th and High a car has to slowly ease out into the middle of the street to see if it's safe to turn left or go straight.

Let's spend some of that money on useful projects instead of pouring it into something that wasn't broken.

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crzyidea 4 years, 11 months ago

1/2 Cent What are the infrastructure projects that are "looming?" I would be interested in seeing this list, and when will this 1/2 Cent end? After this list of looming projects are finished or will it be perpetual?

If they want to spend it on a real infrastructure need, then put it towards paying off the electrical power plant!

Additional 1/4 Cent I am no way in favor of this additional sales tax. I would like to keep one of the lowest (Eudora/Baldwin - 7.3) in the area. I thought the excise liquor tax already was specifically for parks and "quality of life." I would be weary they would tag a project with quality of life to tap into that fund.

To vote yes, I will need to see a specific end date on the sales tax.

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