PITTSBURG, Kan. — The Pittsburg City Commission voted Tuesday to schedule a special election for Oct. 6 to vote on renewing the city’s 0.5 percent street maintenance sales tax for an additional ten years.
Although the item scheduled for discussion Tuesday was a plan to have a special election to extend the tax for an additional five years, following a suggestion from Commissioner Patrick O’Bryan, the commission approved changing it to a ten year period.
Though they eventually voted in favor of holding a special election in October, commissioners Cheryl Brooks and Chuck Munsell initially questioned why the city would not want to simply include the tax issue on the November election ballot.
Putting the sales tax — which is charged on retail sales in the city and pays for repairs and maintenance to city streets — on the November ballot would save the city between $12,000 and $14,000, Brooks said.
"I’m completely 100 percent for this sales tax to be renewed," Munsell said. "I think people, in my mind, would still vote for this on a November ballot compared to an October ballot and we could save a little money, but that’s just my thoughts on it."
Others, however, questioned whether voters’ concerns or anger over national-level political issues that will be on the November ballot could impact the way they vote on the local sales tax issue.
"I don’t know how much anybody’s paying attention, but the November election’s gearing up to be something interesting," City Manager Daron Hall said.
Mayor Dawn McNay similarly said there would be "a lot of noise," and O’Bryan said there would be "a lot of negativity" surrounding the general election.
Having a special election on the local sales tax issue gives the city the chance to make its case for renewing the tax separately from other issues that will be getting more attention as the general election approaches, McNay said.
"I think when we get closer to the election there’s going to be a lot of competing voices," McNay said.
O’Bryan said that in the past the city has been successful in getting the sales tax approved through special elections. Besides the timeframe that the tax will last before needing to be re-approved by voters, nothing about the current sales tax will change if it is approved in October.
"If we can keep it to a simple question, a specific question and clear question that’s about something as local and basic as our infrastructure and our streets, we think it’s definitely worth the $10-, $11- or $12,000 to ensure that we don’t have something go awry in November and then have to have a special election anyway, and then jeopardize the amount of time that we have between when this tax needs to be renewed to not miss any money coming in, versus getting ready for another election," Hall said.
The commission eventually voted unanimously to approve the Oct. 6 special election.