Wichita sets priorities for possible one cent sales tax vote

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WICHITA, Kan. -- The Wichita City Council today voted unanimously for four areas that would benefit form a proposed one cent sales tax. The vote to put the sales tax on the ballot would not come until August. But if it is put on the ballot, here is how it would break down.

63 percent of that would go toward securing future water resources.
20 would be for economic development.
10 would go toward the city transit system.
7 would go for the street repair and improvement.

There was a lot of discussion about the city's transit system. Even with route reductions, current funding can only keep the city's buss system going through 2016. After that it will need $2 million to $4 million a year to keep going.

And keeping busses rolling is important to people like Jimmy Brimer who uses a wheelchair. "I can't drive anymore", said Brimer. "It's the only way I can get around to and from where I need to go like to doctors and things like that."

Just 1/10 of a cent of the proposed city sales tax for the transit system could bring in as much as $7 million a year to maintain and improve the system.

Transit Director Steve Spade said that would bring more riders and stability. "Obviously consumer confidence isn't the highest but as we start implementing service improvements we'll stabilize the system and we'll see that ridership start to pick up", said Spade.

Even though a small percentage of the population rides the bus, Spade says it's important for those members of the community who have no other alternative, a comment echoed by others such as the state president of the National Federation For The Blind in Kansas, Tom Page. "All people with disabilities or do not drive for whatever reason, whether they are environmentalists, senior citizens, youth", said Page. "These are all groups that benefit from a robust bus mass transit system."

Leaders from other groups like Starkey And Arc Of Sedgwick County told the council how important bus service is for their workers.

And Wichita isn't alone if financially subsidizing its bus system. As one council member pointed out and Spade agreed, there isn't a single city bus system in America that makes money or breaks even.

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