Council Takes On County Wide Tax and Heartland Park STAR Bonds

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Several items were voted on at Tuesday night's Topeka City Council meeting but it was the items not voted on that took center stage.

Several Topeka City Council members took issue with the most recent proposal by Shawnee County Commissioners for the extension of the County Wide 1/2 Cent Sales Tax. Mainly the 16 year time frame. Topeka City Council members initially wanted to see a 12 year sales tax.

District 8 Council Member Nathan Schmidt said, "If we decide together with the county, that these projects need to be funded and we decide on the amount of funding for them, we can figure out how many years it is going to take to pay those off. I think that is the best way to go through with it rather than saying this sounds too long of too short."

While the County Commissioners have the final say on what residents see on the ballot November 4th, they aren't taking the council's recommendations lightly.

"I put a lot of emphasis on the council. I think that we want a document that captures the values and beliefs of both the county and city as we present that electorate as a whole for them to make the final decision on the sales tax," said Shawnee County Commissioner Kevin Cook.

More recommendations cam from the Citizen's Government Review Committee which believed a change to the current city council member election process was in order. They recommended that the top two vote getters from each district should be put on a ballot that all residents in the city can vote on as opposed to the current system where each district elects it's own council member.

Most council members, including District 6 representative Chad Manspeaker, who said, " I don't think that better serves our community, I think instead it jumbles everything up and doesn't represent the interest of the individual citizens."

The City Council voted 8-1 to set a public hearing date Tuesday August 12th, to discuss the possible use of STAR bonds to expand the area surrounding Heartland Park Topeka.

Council members also received data from a recent Resource Allocation Study that stated, when compared to 17 other similar cities, Topeka is spending $4.6 million more on it's fire department and $7.6 million dollars more on it's police department.

The study found that Topeka is spending $36 more per resident per year for fire protection than similar cities and $57 more per resident for police protection.

The study is meant as a guideline and not for the council body to take any action. City Manager Jim Colson said he would like for the city council to re-visit the findings from the study.