Gardner City Council members decided to add to a slush fund during a council meeting last week.
Members agreed to raise the transient sales tax, despite the additional tax not being included in the 2014 budget. To do so, they repealed the original ordinance in its entirety.
This means those tax dollars don’t have a name, as Dave Ramsey, personal radio finance guy would say. The radio host implores listeners to determine where every dollar will go before it is received.
It’s sound financial advice. Those who use it know exactly how much they spend and on what. But the city’s new-found revenue apparently isn’t earmarked for anything specific.
The extra dollars, which are paid by those who stay in Gardner’s lone hotel, won’t be used to lower residents’ tax bills. Instead, they’ll be used for “economic growth, “ which has always been a moving target for the city.
Most recently tax funds have been given to Gardner’s chamber of commerce, museum and theater groups; If the city is going to continue to give out transient tax monies, we believe all of the entities should be equally required to request the funding, detail how it will be used and report the net result of economic development and tourism promotion. Requests should also be solicited from all interested community organizations equally. There should be a standard, written policy, and those organizations that can’t show how they’ve benefited the community in terms of growth and tourism should be thrown promptly off the government gravy train.
But maybe the most disturbing part of increasing the tax from 6 percent to 8 percent is that all of the city council members seemed to agree that as long as local people aren’t paying the tax, they are okay with it.
As council member Larry Fotovich intoned, “I don’t see how anyone can get excited about a tax even if it’s a tax on someone else.”
We agree.
We’re a little disappointed in Gardner council’s continued money grab. Although their working budget indicates growth is flat in most department’s, taxes, fees and utility rates continue to be increased and more than 10 new positions are being added while basic infrastructure needs remain unfunded.
Now additional taxes are being levied on Gardner’s guests, who are possibly friends and family members of current residents.
This tax  increases our bed tax 2 percent above neighboring Olathe and puts us on par with Lenexa and Leawood. The tax will add to bottom-line room rates and affect competition. It may also make it more difficult to lure additional hotels; neighboring Spring Hill has a bed tax half of Gardner’s.
We’re curious as to why this tax increase was necessary and why there was such limited public discussion surrounding it.
With no purpose or reasoning, the added dollars are likely to be used as a slush fund .