Voters across three counties overwhelmingly said yes to the Mid-Continent Public Library system's 25 percent property tax increase to pay for a wide range of new buildings, upgrades to current buildings and expanded programming.
Also, Jackson County voters approved a long-standing quarter-cent sales tax, called Combat, for law enforcement and substance abuse treatment and prevention. They said yes to a new one-eighth-cent sales tax for children's services, and they retained the out-of-state tax on the sale of autos and boats.
“I’m really thrilled – really thrilled,” County Prosecuting Attorney Jean Peters Baker said Tuesday night regarding the Combat tax. “We worked hard on that campaign.”
This is the fourth time the voters have renewed Combat since it was adopted in 1989. The vote was 75.3 percent yes to 24.6 percent no with more than 90 percent of the county’s precincts reporting late Tuesday.
The tax takes in about $22 million a year and funds more than 80 outside agencies, and it pays much of the county’s costs for cops, courts and corrections. Baker said voters believe in the fight against drugs and in efforts to prevent violence.
“It means so much to our county,” County Executive Frank White Jr. said Tuesday night.
The children’s services tax is new. Advocates said state cuts have created a local funding gap of tens of millions of dollars a year and much of the new money will be for mental health services and homeless youth.
“I think the citizens of Jackson County see the need for the kids who fall through the gap,” White said.
The tax passed easily, 147,498 yes votes (59.2 percent) to 101,481 no.
Doug Cowan, president and CEO of the Community Services League, cheered the passage of the children’s services tax and said the votes on that, the libraries and Combat all pointed in the same direction.
“Clearly the voters in Jackson County see investments paying off, and they see good institutions behind those taxes …” he said.
“So I just think it’s a great day for kids in Jackson County,” he added.
The library tax increase also passed easily, winning in Jackson, Platte and Clay counties. Overall, with a handful of precincts uncounted late Tuesday night, the vote was 206,586 yes votes (62.08 percent) to 126,146 no votes. Property taxes will rise from 32 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to 40 cents.
The vote means almost every Mid-Continent facility – and all of them in Eastern Jackson County – will get upgrades or replacements. The library system has laid out an extensive plan for that, $86 million over 10 years. Mid-Continent’s president and CEO, Steve Potter, said Tuesday that officials will have further community conversations to make the final adjustments to the timeline and just what services, such as extended hours, that people want.
“The thing is that we worked so hard to connect with our community that we know that the community supports” the library’s plans, he said.
Among the coming changes:
• The Midwest Genealogy Center in Independence gets a 300-seat auditorium and possibly a second-floor expansion.
• A new East Independence branch would be about the size of the South Independence branch on 35th Street.
• The Colbern Road branch in Lee’s Summit will be more than doubled in size and become one of the system’s destination branches.
• Both Blue Springs branches a new community room and new “study/collaboration rooms.”
• Grain Valley gets a new $6.25 million library, possibly where the city hopes to build a complex of community facilities on the south side of town at the Ponderosa property.
Jackson County voters also retained the sales tax on the out-of-state sale of autos, campers, boats and outboard motors. The county would have lost an $3.8 million a year with the tax.
• Lee's Summit voters overwhelmingly gave approval for the city to issue $14.5 in general obligation bonds for public safety improvements with no tax increase, 79 percent to 21 percent out of 46,400 ballots.
Improvements would include replacing Fire Station No. 3 at Third Street and Pryor Road, acquiring new equipment and apparatus and upgrading the radio system and city network connectivity.
• Voters on Tuesday retained all 13 judges on the ballot in Eastern Jackson County on Tuesday.
Across Missouri, voters decided to retain Supreme Court Judge Richard B. Teitelman. He's been on the Supreme Court since 2002.
Voters in Jackson County retained all 16 local Circuit Court judges on the ballot.
• Kansas City voters on Tuesday said no to Clay Chastain's latest proposal for a light-rail system.
With 133 of Kansas City’s 149 reporting late in the evening, the vote was 56,140 no votes (59.29 percent) to 38,543 yes votes (40.71 percent).
Plans called for an initial line from the Grandview Triangle area north to Kansas City International Airport, all within Kansas City itself. Chastain said it could then be expanded – even east into Independence – and could connect with the Rock Island corridor – the stadiums southeast past Lee's Summit – that Jackson County recently bought and is planning for a bike trail and, someday perhaps, a commuter rail line,
County officials have been cool to that idea, and most area transit activists opposed Chastain's plan.
– Mike Genet contributed to this article