One of my duties as executive director of Business West is to visit the various units of local government in Wyandotte County and urge elected officials to hold the line on property taxes. This will be the sixth year for such an effort.
One of the main reasons that property taxes are so high in Wyandotte County is the lack of sales tax to pay for government services. That should change very dramatically after the sales tax bonds are paid off for Village West businesses.
The reason that Wyandotte County was able to attract Village West retail development was substantial tax breaks. Sales tax money from Village West that would have gone to state and local governments is going to pay off bonds for infrastructure (like streets and sewers) in Village West. The good news is that these sales tax bonds will probably be paid off in 2017– at least that is what the folks at City Hall say.
In the meantime, Unified Government officials are busy preparing the budget for 2013 without the benefit of sales tax from Village West. Lew Levin, the chief financial steward at City Hall, said that the budget for next year will show about an estimated one- percent increase in sales tax. The 2012 budget estimates that the Unified Government will collect about $29 million in sales tax for use; sales and property tax revenues were boosted this year with the opening of the new Hollywood Casino next to the Kansas Speedway.
After the sales tax bonds are paid off for Village West, the Unified Government should see sales tax collections in the area of $45 million. That should put Kansas City, Kansas, in the same retail sales league as Overland Park.
Village West will continue to be a huge retail engine that will benefit the entire county. But it will be extremely important for all other parts of the community to produce its share of sales tax revenue. There is no real progress if one area prospers while another area declines.
A key to retail success, and the overall image in any given community, revolves around quality grocery stores. I am encouraged that Price Chopper is planning for a new store in the Wyandotte Plaza Shopping Center.
A few years ago, a discount grocery store opened in the West- field Center and Happy Foods North opened in a former Ball’s location in the Welborn community. The new Wal-Mart store in Plaza at the Speedway sells groceries; so will the nearby Sam’s Club that will open later this year. And the Target store in the Legends is beginning to sell a more extensive line of food.
The Argentine community will soon have a new grocery store. The major anchor at the new shopping center at 18th Street and I-70 is a grocery store. All of these stores are significant sales tax generators.
The future for sales tax revenue after 2017 is encouraging for Wyandotte County. In the meantime, public officials need to hold the line on property taxes.
Murrel Bland is the former editor of the Wyandotte West and the Piper Press. He is executive director of Business West.