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Prairie Village City Council candidates on the issues: A sales tax for city parks
Today, the candidates for Prairie Village City Council respond to the third item from our five-item questionnaire.
3.) The Parks and Recreation Committee is working on language for a ballot measure that would put a .5 percent sales tax increase to fund parks improvements and maintenance before Prairie Village voters. Do you support the idea of putting a sales tax increase before voters? Why or why not?
Diana Ewy Sharp (incumbent)
I fully support asking the public if THEY would like to increase the sales tax to provide for a dedicated funding source for our city’s Parks Master Plan. The two parks that have been renovated under this plan, Franklin and Weltner, have met with overwhelming praise and support. In order to make these improvements to all our neighborhood parks, a funding source must be identified. At present, there are no further park projects in the city’s Five Year Capital Improvement Program. Residents continue to ask when “their” neighborhood park will be upgraded like the first two park projects. In addition to the upgrades, there are capital maintenance needs in our aging parks and this type of dedicated park funding source would address that.
The City Council directed the Parks and Recreation Committee to consider and prepare language for a sales tax referendum to be placed on the November ballot should it meet with the council’s support. Committee members have carefully weighed the benefits and the concerns of this proposal.
I believe taking this issue to the public is a reasonable approach. Villagers love their parks — residents might be surprised to know they only pay $1.49 each month (based on the average tax bill in 2011) on our community’s parks and recreation. Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this survey. Residents may learn more about my re-election campaign at www.dianaewysharp.org.
I will always advocate for a strong park system in our city and understand their importance to our quality of life. However, I do not believe it is fiscally responsible or reasonably justified to increase our sales tax. This sales tax initiative will push our taxes above 10 percent at Corinth and The Village Shops.
Over the last five years, Prairie Village has spent an average of $405,000 per year, improving our parks infrastructure and withdrew $2,000,000 out of cash savings to rebuild Franklin and Weltner Parks. This is in addition to our yearly budgeted cost for general maintenance. Thus, the idea that we don’t have enough money for parks is disputable.
During approval of the CID (which gave away $20,000,000 of potential sales tax dollars to a private developer) our current council representative stated, as reflected in the minutes (City Council – 10/04/10), that she felt the sales tax increase for a private developer was more important than a sales tax increase for parks. Yet, less than two years later, Mrs. Sharp is now the leading advocate to raise our sales tax again.
In many ways this is a question of priorities as Ward 6 is on the front line of crime in PV. Our ward is between Mission Hills and Old Leawood where crime is significantly less than in our neighborhood. I believe the city should have taken a fraction of the $2,000,000 spent on parks and put it towards adding new police officers. Unfortunately, our current representative voted against the 2012 budget which included funds for additional officers. I believe public safety needs to be a top priority for Ward 6
If you believe it’s time to revitalize Ward 6, then please vote for Ted Odell on April 3. Visit www.tedforpv.com for more information.
Al Herrera (incumbent)
Prairie Village occupies 6.7 square miles and is home 11 city parks with 64 acres, a renovated swimming pool complex, with six pools, a 10-court tennis complex, R.G. Endres art gallery in city hall and the Harmon Park Skate Park. As past Park Chair, it was always a struggle to get funding to upgrade all these facilities. With the state of the today’s economy and the city trying to balance its budget, I don’t see anything wrong with letting the Prairie Village citizens vote on the future funding for their parks. In the heart of Prairie Village, standing in a small flower-filled park at Mission and Tomahawk Roads is “The Homesteaders” fountain and statue. I was Co-Chair at the time of that project and had a great committee to help get this project funded and completed. If we had listen to the people who sad this project shouldn’t be done, the citizens would have been denied a beautiful park to have fun with their children.
I do not favor another sales tax increase. Our City Council has already voted to increase our sales tax by 1 percent at Corinth and Village shops to benefit a private developer raising the rate at the shops to 9.525 percent. I believe another sales tax increase in our current economic climate would be irresponsible and unfair to homeowners and families. I also believe it would steer people away from shopping in our local stores and disadvantage business owners at Corinth and Village shops by putting them at one of the highest sales tax rates in the state of Kansas, with a sales tax rate above 10 percent.
Our current economic climate is not the time or place to propose more taxes to fund a park system that is already working just fine. Our parks already attract families from across the metro even without the additional renovations that are being proposed. Our city is at a point financially where we must balance our needs vs. our wants. While our park system is an important asset to our community and should be a high priority when our budget is being discussed, we must learn to live within our means and quit wasting money we don’t have such as what happened with the Tomahawk Creek Fence project. We should also remember that we already have a funding source for parks which is decided upon each year during the budget process.
As Mr. Herrera stated yesterday, “being a councilman is a HUGE time commitment”. I’m asking for your vote on April 3 and I commit to work hard to appropriately fund parks without raising the sales tax!
Please visit www.AshleyforPV.com to request a yard sign and learn more!
Dale Beckerman (incumbent)
Prairie Village has a Parks Master Plan. It has plans for remodeling each of our parks in the years to come. Franklin and Weltner were the first, and the results were outstanding.
The work is expensive. Franklin alone cost over $1 million. Also, although we spend several hundred thousand dollars per year for routine park maintenance (mowing, painting, light repair), some parks need significant and expensive capital repairs. Current and projected City revenues do not support either continued Master Plan projects or significant park and recreation maintenance.
There are serious arguments on both sides of the issue: We should not overlook the broader significance of the closing of Mission Valley: it is the fourth public school to close due to declining attendance since my wife and I moved here in 1977. That diminishes the city’s attractiveness to young families and, in turn, our school enrollments and potentially our property values.
We are in a vigorous competition to attract and retain those families. Within reason we need to continue to provide the amenities they find attractive, including safe, convenient and modern streets, recreation and shopping facilities.
Prairie Village is the city we appreciate today because prior generations did exactly that. Now it is our responsibility to maintain those amenities for future generations. We cannot simply rely on increased property values to supply the necessary revenues, especially if we are unwilling to make the improvements necessary to support those property values in the first place.
On the other side, the sales tax is fairly criticized as regressive. Of our current sales tax rate, 7.525 percent goes to the state or county. This measure could raise our total sales tax to approximately 10 percent (some of the 6.3 percent the state collects may expire). As a total rate that is substantial. Given those competing arguments, I believe it makes sense to let the voters address the issue.
How did Prairie Village get itself into a situation where, as presented by Mr. Beckerman and other sales tax proponents, we must raise taxes to fund parks? It is because we wastefully spend money we don’t have. The Tomahawk fence debacle is an example.
There already exists a funding source for parks. It’s called the parks Capital Improvement Budget (Parks CIP). Council members decide how much money to dedicate to parks each year when they prepare our budget. Franklin Park and Weltner Park were rebuilt using almost $2,000,000 of our cash savings. No sales tax required!
Mr. Beckerman may say of the proposed sales tax increase, “Why not give the people a chance to vote on it?” However, I believe this is a misleading question. Sales tax proponents tell us we can vote for the extra taxes, which will impose a sales tax in PV Kansas that is greater than tourist destinations like NYC (8.875 percent) or Steamboat Springs (8.65 percent). Or, they say, “We may not be able to fund parks to your liking.” In this scenario pro-sales-tax Councilmembers conveniently forget they already have the ability to fund parks via our yearly budgeting process.
Our parks deserve to be a high priority at budget time. It’s the council’s fiduciary responsibility to provide our city with a sensible tax rate. A tax rate that is fair to residents and businesses. Our small mom-and-pop businesses in Corinth shouldn’t be placed in the no-win-situation of either having to raise customer prices or absorb the tax increase and pay it our of their pocket – which many did with the recent CID.
I appreciate our current Councilman’s volunteer time, however it has become necessary to elect a new voice for Ward 4. If you agree with me then please vote and visit www.brookeforpv.com for more information. Make it happen on April 3.
Tomorrow, question four:
4.) The city recently made a significant investment in a geothermal heating and cooling system for city hall that is environmentally friendly and is expected to save the city significant expenses in the long run. What other steps should the city take to be more environmentally friendly?
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