A decline in sales tax revenues because of the economic recession has forced a prioritization among city of Independence projects, but the individual sales taxes are fulfilling promises once made to taxpayers.

A decline in sales tax revenues because of the economic recession has forced a prioritization among city of Independence projects, but the individual sales taxes are fulfilling promises once made to taxpayers.

The city’s chairmen of the storm-water, public safety, street and park sales tax oversight committees conveyed this message during their six-month progress reports before the Independence City Council Monday night. An independent, volunteer-based committee oversees each of the city’s sales tax initiatives and their respective projects.

“In some cases, the economy is really making it a challenge to continue on the same pace we had been,” City Manager Robert Heacock said. “We’re not at the point where we’re not fulfilling any of the projects we promised, but we’re definitely having to pinch pennies on some of the projects.”



Storm water

The purpose of the storm-water program is to preserve natural systems, to maintain existing systems and to build new systems, said R. Scott Smith, storm-water sales tax oversight committee chairman. Citizens passed the one-quarter of 1 percent storm-water sales tax in 2001, and it is set to expire at the end of 2010.

“It is a never-ending battle, and there is much more to do,” Smith said, adding that conversations to renew the sales tax should begin soon.

Sales tax and accrued interest revenues were down from fiscal year 2007-2008 to 2008-2009. The storm-water sales tax and interest generated $4,034,302 in 2008-2009 compared to $4,389,826 in 2007-2008.

Construction and pollution control accounts for 64 percent of the storm-water sales tax spending, with 28 percent devoted to improved maintenance and 8 percent to management and administration. More recently, the U.S. Geological Survey and Independence Water Pollution Control staff members surveyed Spring Branch, East Fire Prairie and Rock creeks, as well as Little Blue River, this summer. These surveys included taking water samples and running tests to check their conductivity and pH, Smith said.

The effects of storm-water capital improvement projects aren’t always visible to residents, Heacock said, but they help make Independence a more livable city.

“It’s more than just fixing underground pipes,” he said. “It’s about quality of life.”



Public safety – fire

Independence’s public safety sales tax is separated between the fire and police departments. The city’s voters approved a fire protection sales tax in August 2004 that generated one-quarter of 1 percent revenue for four years, beginning in January 2005. This year, the sales tax decreased to one-eighth of 1 percent for an additional eight years.

The fire sales tax initially was projected to generate $35.2 million, but the projected total has been reduced to $34 million because of decreased retail sales, said Tom Weir, public safety fire tax oversight committee chairman.

The fire sales tax revenue has recently funded a new computer-aided dispatching and records management system, $213,470; paramedic training, $9,000; the live burn training facility that opened in June, $2.6 million; Fire Station No. 3 that opened in August, $3,103,568; interior remodeling at Fire stations 6, 8, 9 and 10, $230,610; ongoing renovations at Fire Station No. 1, $400,410; and one new shift commanders’ vehicle, $31,312.

 

Public safety – police

Independence voters approved the one-eighth of 1 percent police public safety sales tax in August 2004. Set aside specifically for capital improvements, the tax was originally projected to generate $26.4 million through the end of 2016.

Significant police department purchases since April include exercise and locker room upgrades, $1,605; a patrol transport wagon and equipment, $38,764; and 16 Ford Crown Victoria vehicles, $372,688.

Ongoing expenditures include police vehicles and maintenance; in-car computers; the special operations facility maintenance; and the 700 MHz radio agreement and maintenance.



Streets

The one-half percent streets sales tax will sunset at the end of 2019. The 11-year program started this year with nine projects, including street overlay, the 23rd Street and Noland Road intersection, Jackson Drive, Salisbury Road, Little Blue Parkway and the Bly Road Bridge, 39th Street from Noland Road to Crysler Avenue, sidewalks to parks and sidewalks to schools.

Twenty-five miles of street overlay took place in 2009, and the project is complete for the year, said Bill Baker, streets sales tax oversight committee chairman. Construction is now underway on the 23rd Street and Noland Road intersection, Jackson Drive, Salisbury Road and Little Blue Parkway projects.



Parks

The parks and recreation sales tax took effect in January 2004, with one-eighth cent for parks and recreation and an additional one-eight cent devoted for capital improvements.

The fiscal year 2008-2009 estimated revenues were $3,857,852, while the fiscal year 2009-2010 estimated revenues are $4,022,720. (These are only estimated revenue streams.)

“We spend what we get,” said Frank Benson III, parks sales tax oversight committee chairman. “It has been our policy to not spend what we don’t get.” 

Existing parks projects include the Independence Athletic Complex, the Rock Creek multi-use trail, the park revitalization program and family recreation programs.



COMBAT

During Monday’s City Council study session, Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders also made a brief presentation about the upcoming election to renew the COMBAT tax on Tuesday. The Community Backed Anti-drug Tax, first enacted in 1989, helps fund drug prevention and treatment services.