KCK mayoral candidates square off in debate
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – All five candidates running for mayor in Kansas City, Kan., faced off Monday morning, and hit on tough issues facing the city and county in the coming years. Whoever takes over the mayor’s office at city hall will soon have some good news: more tax revenue from the legends area as it pays off Star Bonds. But it’s not all smooth sailing, since state budget cuts and high property taxes in the area make for some turbulent waters.
In Monday’s debate on KCUR’s “Up to Date” with Steve Kraske, one topic came up time and time again: property taxes.
“I’ve lived in this city my entire life and I’ve not seen the taxes go down,” said candidate Cordell Meeks.
“Over the last 8 years, property tax in Wyandotte County has been raised by 7 million dollars, that’s ridiculous” said candidate Ann Murguia. “I’m currently the only elected official running for mayor that has not voted for a property increase in Wyandotte County.”
As of last year, KCK had the fourth highest property tax rate in the state. It’s even higher than neighboring cities in Johnson County.
Candidate Murguia blamed the other candidates for being part of the problem, but in this economy, some candidates argued certain tax hikes could not be avoided.
“We did that to keep our employees employed,” said candidate Nathan Barnes.
But most candidates agree property taxes are a problem.
“Property taxes are the most significant challenge we have and we need to take a chunk out of those with this new revenue,” said candidate Mark Holland.
The “new revenue” Mark Holland is talking about is the at least 12 million dollars a year that is expected to start pouring into KCK thanks to the soccer stadium and Village West developments paying off Star Bonds and paying into city coffers. But some candidates are concerned about counting on that money.
“We have to deal with it as if we don’t have the money,” said Barnes.
Candidates are worried because of Governor Brownback’s plan to get rid of the income tax. As that revenue goes away, the city could find itself relying more heavily on sales or property taxes and the city’s budget windfall could be blown. Janice Witt says her way of dealing with the problem is reaching out to small businesses to help them grow, and therefore, the economy grows with them.
“If we don’t give small business opportunity to grow in KCK it doesn’t’ matter how much big business does here because it’s our small businesses that feed and grow our community,” said Witt.
Candidate Meeks agrees that economic development will help but he returned to that familiar theme of property taxes:
“First and foremost we need to lower the property taxes so citizens can keep more of their money in their pocket and reinvest it into our community,” said Meeks.