Merriam-Webster's definition of a conundrum is, "an intricate and difficult problem; a question or problem having a conjectural answer. One City in the Kansas City metropolitan area was faced with a capital conundrum: streets and storm systems built in the 1960s and 1970s that have reached or surpassed their lifespans. The conundrum was how to apply a new resource to the problem the City had never been able to tackle.
First a little background. The City of Westwood Kansas is a first-tier suburb of the greater Kansas City metropolitan area. Both a residential community of approximately 1,700 people and a city of business and commerce as it is home to several University of Kansas Hospital facilities including the Richard and Annette Bloch Cancer Care Pavilion, and other corporate office and retail businesses.
The City's operating (General Fund) budget is approximately $2.7 million. The City provides for parks and recreation, public works (streets and stormwater), and police services. The only utility fund the City maintains is its stormwater utility funded by a storm water utility fee. In addition to the City's operating budget residents were facing nearly $5 million in street rehabilitation and stormwater capital projects in the city's five-year capital budget. Of that total $1.8 million were high priority projects identified by the City in either a failing or already failed status.
In the fall of 2017 Baker Tilly was hired through and RFP process to assist the City in coming up with a strategy to answer its capital problem. The first step of the strategic planning process had already been completed by the City - identifying its highest priority projects - $1.8 million which the city did not immediately have available.
The next step for the city was to evaluate its options to proceed with the $1.8 million in projects immediately. Baker Tilly, along with the City Administrator and Public Works Director discussed several options including:
Over the course of the fall and late winter the city council held several meetings with Baker Tilly and city staff to evaluate the 4 options and ultimately arrive at a consensus in moving forward. The City selected a 1/2 cent sales tax to fund the infrastructure projects for several reasons.
The city elected to use a mail in ballot process for the 1/2 cent sales tax decision. In Kansas cities can establish a special purpose citywide retailers' sales tax. In this case the special purpose would be used for its specific street and stormwater CIP. The sales tax goes into effect October 1, 2018 and sunsets after 10 years.
With 39% of the registered voters casting a vote the measure passed 81% Yes, 19% No. Conundrum solved.
For more information on this topic, or to learn how Baker Tilly municipal specialists can help, contact our team.
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