City of Wichita holds meeting to discuss budget, proposed sales tax increase

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In a room full of concerned citizens, Wichita city officials laid out a plan to help the city prepare for the future, which includes implementing a one cent sales tax increase over the next five years. Part of their plan involves getting the community to voice their concerns on where potential tax dollars could be allocated.

Jeff Longwell, Wichita City Council Member, said "trying to get feedback is critical for the future of Wichita."
The City of Wichita has named four top priorities in which sales tax dollars could be used for:

Water supply: "The goal of water planning efforts is provide enough water through 2060 to provide a reliable water supply without minimizing customer impacts." The city has come up with two options, purchasing drinking water from El Dorado for immediate use in the distribution system or constructing a water storage site and news wells to maximize the output of the existing treatment facilities.

Job creation initiative: "A sales tax is the best solution for funding economic development because current budget allocations by both the City and Sedgwick County are not sufficient to allow Wichita to have a competitive advantage.... A dedicated funding source for economic development initiatives would allow the City to help grow local small and medium-sized businesses that complement and/or diversify the current economic base."

Public transit: "The funds would stabilize the current system, provide for the replacement of buses, improve efficiency and allow for system expansion to serve new riders."

and pavement maintenance: "the sales tax funding would complement the annual street maintenance budget, allowing an increase in street reconstruction and rehabilitation. Future residents would inherit a network of streets in better shape than would be possible without the sales tax funding."

Though these are the four core issues residents still had the opportunity to weigh in on other concerns. Darren Warren was one of those residents who spoke out during the meeting. While he says the city addressed key components, "I looked at the future plans that supposed to look at 25-30 years into the future, and of course water is very important, but in my neighborhood air quality is just as important."

Longwell says one cent sales tax will generate about 400 million dollars roughly."

This is how the city says it will use the money:

-$250 million will go toward water
-$80 million toward economic development/ job creation
-$40 million toward transit
-about $30 million toward pavement maintenance.

This meeting and future meetings, allow residents to voice where they feel these tax dollars should filter into, if the sales tax increase proposal passes. Kevin McWhorter, says he commends the City for allowing the public to be involved in this process. "If we are going to be proactive and we're going to have better quality of life in this city, we're going to have to compete with other cities and they're doing these things."

The city has until August to decide whether it will include the tax increase in the November ballot.

NEXT MEETINGS: All these meeting start at 6:30 pm.

* June 18 - District VI - Evergreen Recreation Center

* June 23 - District I - Boys and Girls Club of South Central Kansas, 2400 N. Opportunity Dr.

* June 24 - District IV - Osage Recreation Center

* June 26 - District II - Eastminster Presbyterian Church

* June 30 - District III - WATER Center, 101 E. Pawnee St.

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