While many Pittsburg voters may be paying more attention to the Nov. 3 general election following this week’s presidential debate and months of campaigning by candidates for a wide range of offices, they will also have the opportunity to vote in a special election next week on a much more narrowly focused issue — the city’s street maintenance sales tax.
The city commission voted unanimously in August to schedule the special election for next Tuesday, Oct. 6. Although there was some discussion of whether it was necessary to have a special election, all of the commissioners also expressed their support for renewing the sales tax at that time. The only issue on the special election ballot is the street sales tax, which pays for repairs and improvements to city streets and sidewalks.
If approved, the ballot measure would combine two existing quarter-cent street maintenance sales taxes first authorized in 2011 and 2017, respectively, to create a half-cent sales tax, but would not raise taxes. It would also extend the tax to last for a 10-year period before voters need to re-approve it, versus the five-year period covered by the current quarter-cent sales taxes, which have not previously been renewed in the same year.
"Our goal is to combine those two quarter-cent sales taxes — which I just can’t stress enough, there’s no increase in our sales tax," said Shane Kannarr, who formerly chaired the city’s Economic Development Advisory Committee. "These are sales taxes that already exist, we’re just renewing, and so our goal is to combine the two and make them renew every 10 years."
Kannarr also owns Kannarr Eye Care and is not currently a city official, but he has been working to urge voters to approve the street sales tax by sending out mailers, using social media, and having direct discussions with Pittsburg voters and community groups. He noted that meeting face-to-face has been more challenging than in a typical year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but overall he has gotten a positive response.
"I think everybody’s in agreement: we have to continue to maintain our streets," he said. "We have to continue to make things better."
There are two major reasons the city will benefit from renewing its street sales taxes as a single tax and extending it to last for 10 years, Kannarr said.
"It really allows us to have a better long range plan for the city, we can sit down and look and see what’s happening," he said, echoing past comments by city officials.
"Instead of thinking about where to put the next band-aid on, it gives us a better opportunity to pre-plan those bigger projects," Public Utilities Director Matt Bacon said at the city commission meeting in August where the commission approved holding the special election.
Kannarr also noted that it could give the city opportunities to get additional funding from the Kansas Department of Transportation.
"In a five-year sunset period we really don’t have time for the KDOT to be attracted to our projects or provide them the goal they need," he said. "If we have 10 years we think there’s a great opportunity to bring in dollars into our community from the state."
For more information about the street maintenance sales tax, visit https://www.pittks.org/services/streets-highways/street-sales-tax/