Cities turning to sales tax to fix budget woes

WICHITA, Kansas – Declining financial support from the state is one reason some local officials say Kansans across the map could soon be paying more in taxes. Most municipal leaders say they’ve been weaning off depending on state money for the last decade, but the rising costs of keeping up with infrastructure and other projects is finally catching up across Kansas. Since the beginning of the year almost 30 cities across the state have either passed sales tax hikes or raised mil levies, or placed proposals to do so on upcoming ballots

Struggling for cash, several communities, including Wichita are looking at a new sales tax.

“Federal and state budgets have cut back  and the biggest portion of money that we used to receive are federal monies for this and that so we have to work around that,” said Wichita City Council Member James Clendenin.

Wichita City Manager Robert Layton says they’ve been bracing for reduced funding and state funding played no role in exploring the 1% sales tax hike.

“We really tried to control our own destiny and do it within existing financing sources or funding sources so I’m not sure this is something we were destined to have or destined to move in this direction,” Layton said.

Finding a safe reliable drinking water source is the main reason behind a sales tax proposal in Wichita but other communities have their own reasons for needing more money. In Goddard a 1% sales tax is on the table for a variety of reasons.

“The state started reductions in their transfers to local government 10-15 years ago, it’s persisted it still impacts us to this day it’s pushed the burden to local residents at the city and county level,” said City Administrator Brian Silcott.

Democratic state representative Gail Finney expects more of the same.

“I think that our lack of state funding due to our recent tax decrease for some is going to have a trickledown effect on quite a few people and municipalities in the long run,” Finney said.

Republican Gene Suellentrop says a down economy is to blame.

“Funding for the 60 months that I’ve been there, 5 years, there’s been no material change in funding for cities and counties,” he said.

Regardless of where the money comes from, cities and counties across the state are tightening belts to keep from going broke.

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