Many people claim Kansas City area voters are very picky when it comes to higher taxes. My response after watching voters go to the polls dozens of times since the late 1980s: Nah, not really.
Check out what happened last Tuesday regarding libraries on the Missouri side of the state line, a courthouse in Johnson County and children’s services in Jackson County. Voters’ decisions will have consequences for years to come.
— The most essential and uplifting victory came when residents in Clay, Platte and Jackson counties (in the parts outside of the Kansas City Public Library taxing district) approved a small property tax increase to improve operations of the extensive Mid-Continent Public Library.
The system, which serves just shy of 800,000 people, got the support of around 62 percent of voters.
“That was a surprise to me,” library director Steve Potter bluntly told me after Election Day. Of course, it was of the pleasant variety.
The Northland — where voters are more likely to be Republicans and, in the past, have been more likely to oppose higher taxes — gave the library about a 60 percent approval rating at the ballot box.
Potter said voters in Clay and Platte counties and elsewhere in the system were engaged with questions about how it could serve them.
They understood “why a 21st century library is different from a 20th century library,” Potter said.
The higher property tax won’t be collected until late 2017. That means most of the promised construction improvements won’t start until 2018 at the earliest, Potter said.
No problem. The wait will be worth it for library users.
However, the 17,000-vote margin indicated that Johnson Countians may be feeling taxed out, to a degree. The commission put in place higher property taxes in 2015 — deservedly so — to pay for higher quality parks, libraries and transit service.
— Finally, Jackson County voters approved a one-eighth cent sales tax for an initiative called the Community Children’s Services Fund.
(For the record, I opposed this question, which passed by about a 60-40 percent margin.)
In the election’s aftermath, I pointed out that Jackson County Chairwoman Crystal Williams had been a diligent supporter of the cause.
On a Facebook post, Williams deflected the glory:
“Credit really goes to Todd Adam Patterson and the Children’s Fund Coalition. Lisa Parrish Mizell, Jennifer Hurst, Martha Gershun and hundreds of others who volunteered their time and passion to make our county a better place for kids. So proud of their extraordinary accomplishment!”
In a post-election interview, Williams told me the money would be well spent to help at-risk children.
The tax has to come up for renewal in seven years. Jackson Countians especially must watch to see whether its properly used — and kept out of the control of politicians, as promised by its supporters.