Wichita sales tax fails to pass

WICHITA, Kansas – Voters in Wichita have rejected a proposed 1-cent sales tax to pay for several city projects.

Unofficial results show the issue was rejected yesterday by a vote of 62 percent to 37 percent.

City officials had proposed the sales tax to raise $400 million to expand Wichita’s water supply, boost economic development, improve the city’s transit system and upgrade street maintenance.

“Individuals have had an opportunity to voice what they believe are the priorities and the city council put it on the ballot. And so from their stand point, the city council will come back together and have another evaluation on what we can we afford to do and what steps do we need to do these things in,” said Mayor Carl Brewer, Wichita.

“It’s just a reminder that the people indeed wanted to vote on these, each of these items separately, they want accountability and transparency,” said Jennifer Baysinger, Vote No Coalition.

On Wednesday, Mayor Brewer released a statement following the sales tax vote:

I’d like to start by thanking everyone who voted, participated in the community engagement process and took the time to learn about the sales tax proposal. 

The outcome of the vote is now known, and it’s time for us – your city’s elected representatives and leaders – to move forward and address concerns that are not going away.

  • Concerns that were identified as part of a two-year engagement process;
  • Concerns that were identified in more than 100 plus meetings;
  • And concerns that must be addressed to move our city forward.

Wichita is a great city, a great place to work, live and educate our children.  We can’t let disagreement over the outcome of the vote divide our community or prevent us from working together. We still need to address four key community priorities.   

  • We must improve our water supply: We know that demand is expected to increase by seven billion gallons by 2060. Projections tell us we need $250 million to fund a new water supply.   
  • We must serve those who rely on Transit: We have many citizens who depend on public transportation to get to work, school, medical appointments and buy food and other necessities. But due to revenue shortages, declining federal funds and higher operating costs– Wichita Transit cannot continue to operate at its existing service levels.  We have tough decisions to make.  
  • We need to improve our infrastructure: We need better neighborhood streets. We already fund street repairs at $8 million a year but we know that’s not enough for a growing city. Without the sales tax funds, it will take longer to repair some of the worst neighborhood streets. We ask for your patience and support.
  • We need a more diverse economy: That starts with better job growth; 1% job growth is unacceptable for a city of our size and our potential. Wichita has some of the most skilled and best workers in the world. We need much better job growth to keep them here.

Yes, the sales tax was rejected but these challenges will not defeat us. 

The Wichita City Council and I will explore next steps to address these very real issues.  

We will also continue to engage you and come together to find solutions for these community priorities.

But this isn’t just about Wichita.  These decisions affect the South Central, Kansas region.  I’m asking our neighbors to continue to help in efforts to create jobs, improve infrastructure and enhance the overall value of our region – at a time of increasing competition. 

We will continue to expand and enhance our engagement process. It’s my hope that employers, civic groups and citizens will continue to participate. In the days ahead, we will continue to discuss next steps. We want to hear from all of you. 

The clock is ticking for Wichita and we must act in an urgent manner while competing cities are moving forward.

It’s up to us as a City, County and region to position Wichita to be the best it can be today and for future generations. Together we can find solutions for our community, we can move our community forward and we can do great things.

 

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