Voters In Kansas And Missouri Approve Taxes For Schools, Anti-Drug Programs, Libraries

Nov 9, 2016

An anti-establishment wave that rippled across the country Tuesday night didn't seem to put a damper on support for a host of tax increases in Kansas and Missouri. Voters in a number of counties supported sales and property taxes to fund public services in a number of municipalities.

Here's a look at them:

Missourians and Kansans cast ballots in support of a number of public service issues Tuesday.
Credit Laura Ziegler 89-3

The Combat Tax

Jackson County, Missouri, voters renewed a quarter-cent sales tax for nine years to fight crime and violence. The so-called Combat Tax was overwhelmingly approved. The tax funds programs that allow law enforcement to collaborate with substance abuse treatment and prevention programs.

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said programs supported by the tax like "drug court" and anti-crime efforts provide prosecutors options for drug and violent crime offenders.

“For the number of years we’ve been funding drug prevention, education and treatment programs, we are seeing the difference,” she said Tuesday night.

Mid-Continent Library System

By more than two to one, Kansas City, Missouri, voters approved Prop L, a 1 percent property tax increase to raise $10 million a year for all 31 branches of the Mid-Continent Library System. Supporters said the levy is necessary to renovate or replace aging facilities and provide the latest technology for instructional resources, research and informational data bases.

Light Rail

Voters in Kansas City once again rejected a light rail plan by transit activist Clay Chastain. Chastain, who lives primarily in Virginia but is registered to vote in Kansas City, Missouri, proposed three new sales taxes equaling three-fourths of a cent for 25 years to fund construction, operation and maintenance of a citywide light rail transit system from KCI to south Kansas City.

Critics claimed the line didn’t improve access to jobs for those who need it in Kansas City, took needed funds from the existing transit authority, and relied on a dubious federal match. Longtime political strategist Pat O’Neill said Tuesday night the nine different Chastain plans over the last two decades confused voters about other transit issues.

“I was in line (to vote) where a lady thought she was going to vote on the transportation issue that Clay Chastain had proposed,” O’Neill said, “and she thought it was the streetcar going to the Plaza and UMKC."

Kansas City, Kansas, Schools

Kansas City, Kansas, public schools will benefit from $235 million in bonds to knock down and rebuild aging schools, create a new early childhood center, and add college prep and career planning resources to five high schools.

Members of the Unified School District Tuesday overwhelmingly approved the bond issue. It will not raise taxes for district residents.

District Chief of Staff David Smith said the district has paid off a significant portion of an earlier 30-year bond thanks to low interest rates and prudent fiscal management. As a result, he said, the district will “renegotiate and extend that current bond and the tax rate stays the same.”

Funds from the bonds will allow the district to upgrade playgrounds and kitchens in a number of schools.

Johnson County Courthouse

According to unofficial results from Johnson County, Kansas, voters look to have approved a quarter-cent sales tax over 10 years for a new courthouse and coroner’s facility.

Supporters say the 65-year-old existing courthouse is overcrowded, doesn’t adequately protect victims and witnesses from inmates and lacks accessibility for those with disabilities.

A coroner’s facility is necessary so the county can do autopsies on site rather than outsourcing them to a Kansas City, Kansas, facility.

Cities across Johnson County also benefit from the new sales tax. Kansas law mandates about one third of a county sales tax can be used by cities in whatever ways they see fit.

Laura Ziegler is a community engagement reporter and producer. She can be reached on twitter @laurazig or at zieglerl@umkc.edu.