Wichita Considers Lowering Property Taxes, Raising Sales Tax

By: Jennifer Bocchieri Email
By: Jennifer Bocchieri Email

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Wichita city leaders are considering a proposal to lower property taxes but to make up for it, adding a sales tax hike.

The idea is, the more customers pay at the cash register, the more money for the city, especially from those who live on Wichita's outskirts and tourists.

In exchange, property owners will pay less easing homeowner's burdens and persuading new businesses to come to town.

"I think it certainly could be more equitable and more fair to all local taxpayers because it shares the tax burden," said Council Member Jeff Longwell.

And it's an idea people we spoke with agree with.

One Wichitan says, “I’m in favor of it. I think property taxes are just so stiff. I think I’d be great to do an increased sales tax and spread it out."

"I have no problem with having everybody kind of share the wealth," said another Wichitan.

Council members first talked about the sales--property tax switch last Spring but decided to do nothing until a new city manager came on board.

It didn't come up again until Tuesday morning when local businessman and former county commission candidate Craig Gable came before the council.

"The people of our great city are ready for this change," said Gable.

Gable offered a slightly different version of the plan, one the council doesn't like. But it at least brought the issue back to the forefront.

"At least we can have an educated and thorough discussion about it to decide if it's something we should move or not," said Council Member Paul Gray.

One downside of the switch is while property taxes bring a steady income to the city relying on a sales tax could be more unstable, especially in today's economy. One of many things the council will have to consider.

"Making sure as we do this who we are impacting the most. Are we shifting something from someone else to someone else? A lot of things I'll be asking when we look at it. But I don't have a problem looking at it," said Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer.

The council would like to start discussions as soon as possible and could even talk about putting the measure on the April ballot.

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