It’s not often we have reason to be appreciative of the Kansas Court of Appeals, but today, the Court deserves a proverbial pat on the back for putting the kibosh on a controversial driveway tax in Mission, Kan.
The court ruled last week that Mission’s tax, which imposed a fee based on how much traffic is generated by a property. City officials called it a fee, but the Courts called it an illegal excise tax.
The for-now illegal tax generated about $800,000 for the city of Mission annually. Mission officials have not yet said whether it will appeal the appeals court ruling. The driveway tax was implemented in 2010 to collect more revenue from properties that place the largest burden on city streets.
Traditional ad valorem, or property taxes, should already be serving the same purpose. Properties that generate a lot of traffic, specifically commercial and retail properties, typically have an assessed valuation worth more than that of a single family home. Maintenance costs for existing city streets should be baked into that revenue pie already without the addition of a new tax or fee.
Similarly, in Gardner, the cost of ongoing maintenance should be built into the current property tax rates. Sadly, that’s not the case, in part, because voters approved a sales tax 10 years ago to fund the Gardner Aquatic Center and Celebration Park. City officials touted increased sales tax revenues from a second big box store would help pay debt on the projects. A second big box store never materialized, and city officials used general funds, generated from property taxes, to fund debt on the parks’ projects. Road maintenance was set aside.
Now city officials are asking voters to approve another sales tax to fund road maintenance and repairs. It’s not illegal, like Mission’s plan, but it’s not smart. What happens in 10 years when the tax expires? Road maintenance is an ongoing expense. The tax is temporary.
The appeals court ruling differentiated between a tax and a fee. Fees are voluntary, taxes are compulsory or forced.
We are pleased that the Court saw fit to slap the hand of a greedy government.