By Stephanie Edwards
Christine Bushyhead, Chairman of the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council board of directors, addressed the council during the public comments session of the regular council meeting January 12. In her comments, she proposed the addition the words “and other capital improvement” of language to the Capital Improvements sales tax that will go on the April ballot for renewal.
The CIP tax will expire at the end of March in 2018.
Bushyhead said she was guided the desires of the board of the directors of the economic development council who, aside from the mayor and the city manager, supported the addition of the language to the CIP sales tax ballot language. The addition of the language would “provide maximum flexibility for future capital improvement needs over the next fifteen years.”
“From a purely LSEDC perspective, there may be a circumstance in the next 15 years that the city might want to make a capital improvement project happen sooner in time to facilitate a tremendous ED prospect decision to move to Lee’s Summit and to make that their home,” she said. “Or, we made to address a capital improvement need other than transportation or stormwater that becomes critical sooner than planned.”
The comments sparked a discussion among members of the council. During her presentation to the council, Dena Mezger noted the suggestion to add the language to the ordinance. She explained that state statute was very broad in terms of the use of the sales tax.
Councilmember Rob Binney asked Mezger the status of the projects from the previous bond issue. Mezger explained that several projects had been completed but some, like the Ward Road project, are still in the process of completion.
“So, while we have a specific list of projects and some pools of projects, these projects won’t be done in two or three years,” Binney said. He said some of the projects would like a number of years.
Mezger explained that the next step for city staff members is to educate the public on the proposed list of projects that will be funded by the tax, but not to influence public vote. She also explained that the law did not bind them to the proposed list.
Councilmember Binney stated that, as an elected official, he felt there was a higher standard. “I think if we are going to go out and give folks a specific list or road projects, then that is what we are going to do, that is what we should do,” he said.
Mezger agreed that this has been their practice.
Binney then expressed his concern over the proposal of language by the Economic Development Committee. “We are standing on shoulders that have done this before,” he said, speaking of the projects that were proposed with the previous CIP tax proposals. “When they presented a list of projects we will attempt to finish those projects as promised.”
Councilmember Chris Moreno said he worried that a change in language on the ballot would make it possible to open up the possibility to take money out. “This forces us to do what we promised,” he said.
Councilmember Trish Carlyle moved to add the language to the ballot as proposed by Bushyhead.
Discussion continued on the matter. Councilmember Dave Mosby said that the all of the proposed projects were economic development related. “I will vote ‘no’ on this,” he said.
Councilmember Craig Faith commended Mosby and Moreno for their passion for the issue but said he looked at it differently. His background is in public safety, he explained and suggested the funds might come in handy if there was an economic failure and public safety services were unavailable.
Mosby and Moreno suggested that the language of the ballot measure stipulate that a percentage of the tax revenue be spent only on the list of proposed projects by the PWC.
The motion to amend the language on the ballot failed 5-3.
A new motion was made to pass Ordinance 17-16 without the additional language. The motion passed 7-1.