There will be an election Sept. 15.
City council members unanimously approved an ordinance authorizing a special sales tax mail-in election.
The ballot question will ask voters whether to add a half-cent sales tax to fund the construction and maintenance of streets, sidewalks and trails. The tax
would sunset in 2026. The sales tax would replace an expiring tax that was used to pay debt on the construction of Celebration Park and the Gardner Aquatic Center. It expires at the end of this year.
If voters approve the sales tax question, retailers will begin collecting on Jan. 1, 2016 an additional half cent per dollar on items sold in Gardner.
Council members did not discuss or debate the sales tax question on June 15 prior to unanimously approving the special election.
The additional half cent sales tax would maintain Gardner’s existing sales tax rate. However, state legislators recently approved legislation that will increase state sales tax from 6.15 percent to 6.55 percent.
Today, shoppers pay an additional 8.75 percent on goods purchased in Gardner. Of that, 6.15 percent goes to the state of Kansas, .5 percent goes to the county, .25 percent is a permanent sales tax dedicated to Johnson County law enforcement, another .10 percent funds Johnson County Stormwater, .125 percent is given to the Johnson County Research Triangle, the city of Gardner collects a permanent 1 percent sales tax and another .50 percent in the soon-to-expire pool and park tax.
With the state’s sales tax increase, local shoppers will pay a sales tax rate of 9.225 percent, Gardner voters approve the local sales tax ballot question.
Though they didn’t really discuss the sales tax initiative on June 15, the council did discuss the question at prior work sessions and meetings. They appeared to reach a consensus to move forward with the sales tax proposal during a March 23 budget work session, though they debated whether the tax should fund street maintenance or other projects and whether to seek voter approval for a higher sales tax rate.
In almost all funds, the city has more revenue than anticipated and has spent less than budgeted this year, and the city’s assessed valuations are higher by an estimated 8.5 percent.
Most funds appear healthy. For example, in the general fund officials have revenues 2 percent, or about $225,000, higher than projected, and officials have spent far less than anticipated — about $943,000.
A portion of those savings are committed to future projects — an IT rehab and other delayed projects worth about $278,000. The remainder of the savings is due to savings in personnel.
Things aren’t as rosy in the city’s electric utility fund. To date, electric revenues lag estimates by 1.6 percent, and expenditures are 4.3 percent higher than anticipated. In the electric utility, that translates into a $600,000 shortfall, although personnel savings of $394,000 — the city has yet to replace its former electric utility director. Laura Gourley, city finance director, said in March that the utility budget significantly underestimated the cost of wholesale electricity by about $499,000 and underestimated the cost of capital improvements by about $110,000.