There will be three separate City of Great Bend sales tax questions in the November 2nd general election vote after the city council took action on Monday night. These would help fund the quality of life, pay the city’s debts for a new police station, and cover the cost of changes to the police and fire service package.
The council reached a consensus on the issues at its working session on August 2nd, said city administrator Kendal Francis. On Monday they ironed out some final details and finalized them.
These taxes include:
• .10% – debt service Construction of a new police station with 20 years of sunset. The estimated revenue is $ 377,752 per year.
Estimated at $ 5.8 million, the 25,000-square-foot facility on the 12th and Baker is located in what is now the city’s parking lot and will also house the city court.
It should be paid out before sunset. All funds generated thereafter will flow into an account to pay off future debts.
This originally also included replacing the town hall by converting the rest of the office complex in the event center. The cost was estimated at $ 8 million, but this idea was discarded due to the cost.
• 0.15% – quality of life without sunset. Estimated revenue is $ 566,628 per year.
This includes the improvement of parks and other recreational facilities as well as maintenance.
• 0.20% pension for public security personnel (police and fire brigade) without sunset. Estimated revenue is $ 755,504 per year.
However, this required some discussion.
Currently, the city’s retirement plans (including the police and fire department) are with Mission Square Retirement, a not-for-profit independent financial services company that offers retirement plans for the public sector. The city is not part of the Kansas Retirement System for Public Employees, although in recent years the city has increased the city’s contributions to Mission Square to better accommodate KPERS.
Under KPERS is Kansas Police and Fire, which is specially designed for uniformed firefighters and police officers. Great Bend is one of four Kansas cities that don’t use KPF, which is considered an industry standard.
Police officers and firefighters say doing so would make the departments more competitive and help eliminate the rapid turnover that plagues both of them. It also offers a guaranteed annuity for retirees.
However, the change would be more expensive, around $ 550,000 per year. This corresponds to 6 million property taxes.
The tax is enough to cover the cost for a few years, but it has been determined that the cost will rise to nearly $ 850,000 and possibly more annually through 2033.
The council fears that this will still force the city to raise property taxes to meet needs.
“We can’t afford that in 10 or 20 years,” said Alan Moeder, councilor for Ward 1. He called for an alternate version of the question.
This included more general language that would allow retirement sales tax to be used to complement the current plan or for KP&F.
Most in the council were concerned about being included in the CP&P plan. Once the city has registered, it cannot exit the program.
The council can still choose KP&F if they choose, Francis said. But that would come after the election, if approved.
Junior Welch, Ward 4 alderman, said it was more than the pension that public safety staff wanted. There is accident insurance and other benefits.
Which was the only council member who voted for the more specific formulation of KP&F.
All three taxes are considered “general” sales taxes, Francis said. This means that there is a restriction that makes it possible to use them for the property tax reduction.
“It allows us, if we should choose to use that money for any purpose,” he said. “We know, however, that these funds will be used for the stated purposes.”
If approved, the taxes would go into effect on April 1, 2022.
The 0.45% sum for all three would raise the city’s sales tax rate to 8.75%. This is still in the middle compared to similar cities.