March 26, 2013 Letter to the Editor - Platte County Landmark
I have been encouraged to write this appeal and it is over due that I fulfill that request. Platte County citizens are being asked to renew a 3/8 cent sales tax for roads this coming Tuesday, April 2nd. This is a tax that can and should be left to expire so as to make financial room for citizens to pay for the more immediate needs facing the county and frankly, to pay off county debt. The 3/8 cent Roads Tax also does not deserve to be renewed nor do the agencies at the county level deserve to win our renewed support. This sales tax is charged to and collected on all citizens of Platte County as well as welcome outsiders doing business in our county, yet, not all of the county benefits from this tax! Unincorporated southern Platte County does not receive any revenue from the roads sales tax. That of itself is unfair and a good reason to vote no on Tuesday. Another great reason to vote no is that the County Commissioners who voted affirmative to place the tax on the ballot either don't have facts straight or refuse to let truth and facts stand in the way of an agenda. According to our very own County Treasurer's records, 50% of the 3/8% road tax revenues are distributed to Road District #1, Farley and Weston Special Road Districts and "Other County Projects". In fact, two-thirds of that 50% go to "Other County Projects". Interesting to lump almost $2 million per year into a generic fund. The other 50% of the 3/8 cent road sales tax goes to municipalities within our county, with $1.7 million going to Kansas City out of the $2.6 million collected in 2012. Following Kansas City, the largest benefactors are Parkville with just $200,000 in 2012 of that $2.6 million, Platte City got $196,000 and Riverside got $151,000 (what is the gambling tax revenue paying for??). Understandably, Parkville and Platte City would love to see the tax renewed as would all our county municipalities. And coincidentally, Weatherby Lake stands to lose nearly a $100,000 per year in roads money if the tax is not renewed. Surely there is not a conflict with Commissioner Roper to make sure her neighborhood maintains this revenue, is there? The same could be said for Commissioners Soper and Brown as Platte City municipality receives over $150,000 annually via the tax. Though to be fair, I believe Commissioner Brown voted against renewing the tax.
Who doesn't benefit from the sales tax? Parkville and Platte City Special Road Districts, that's who. In these districts, money levied on our property taxes goes to operate and maintain our roads in these two districts. This is the way taxation should work - tax only those who receive the benefit of the tax revenue!
The Parkville Special Road District is renowned for excellent roads, excellent maintenance and superb winter weather policies and operation. Our District is one locally controlled governmental agency that works. By the way, please support incumbent Brenda Teters for Parkville Road District Board so we don't try to fix what isn't broken! Let's examine the County's record with respect to promises made to roads and infrastructure. In 2002 when the road tax was proposed, many in the outlying county were promised that with their support, roads would be paved. In the corridor north of Hwy 152 and I-435 these promises were ignored until those citizens demanded the promises be fulfilled. But even now, once these citizens leave the roads maintained by Parkville Special Road District as they drive north, they soon realize how pitiful and negligent the County behaves with the lack of good roads and winter weather conditions. Thus, the reward of renewing the tax is undeserved. The citizens need to be able to reserve that money to pay for the unfunded mandate of $10 million dollars worth of new public safety radios that the Commission has kicked to this administration to resolve and pay for starting this year. Further, the radio issue will not magically be permanently resolved after ten years but we, you and I, will have to tax ourselves to pay for another ten years and another ten years after that and so on. There is also the matter of our jail being filled to near capacity as our county grows and the surrounding urban metro area discovers quiet Platte County as a target for crime and finds we convict and put away our perpetrators. The solution here is not to tax the entire county but only enforce collection in the jurisdictions which benefit from a 3/8 cent sales tax for roads or better yet, defeat the overall county sales tax this Tuesday, April 2nd and let each benefitting entity put a 3/8 cent sales tax on their ballots in November of 2014 to provide their infrastructure revenue. We must in this country change the ideology to tax everyone else so that a small entity can play "keep up with the Joneses" but return to the sustainable fact of "if YOU want it, YOU pay for it". Vote NO to renew the 3/8 cent Sales Tax for Roads and Vote NO for any new bonds. The county needs to become debt free and with discipline and proper fiduciary governance, can operate with cash on the revenues it now generates.
Citizen of Unincorporated Southern Platte County