Future Of Shawnee County Tax Dollars Debated At City Council

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- City officials have held several town meetings to gauge area residents' ideas on how to best improve Shawnee County and the city of Topeka through extending the county-wide half cent sales tax.

Now council members just have to decide when and how to implement it.

All 9 city council members were present at Tuesday's city council meeting, including District 2 representative John Campos, who earlier Tuesday entered a diversion agreement on two felony charges related to a false vehicle insurance card.

On the agenda, council members say they hear most people support extending the countywide half cent sales tax, but narrowing just where to funnel the money is difficult.

"People want to continue economic development. They want the city to be healthy but they increasingly recognize that quality of life is part of that and at the same time infrastructure is critical," said District 1 Council Member Karen Hiller.

One issue that both Council Members Karen Hiller and Sylvia Ortiz agree on is transparency on what the tax would cover.

"In the past, people thought they would get sidewalks and gutters and that's what they voted for but they really didn't. There was one word in there, existing. If you didn't have an existing sidewalk or curb and gutter it would not be replaced," said District 3 Council Member Sylvia Ortiz.

Council members weighed the importance of economic development, infrastructure and quality of life being included.

District 5 Council Member Michelle De La Isla said she'd like the tax to include economic development through small business, The Kansas Expocentre and schools.

They also talked about how many years to ask it be extended, some suggest 15 or 20 years. District 9 Councilman Richard Harmon said he would refuse anything longer than 15, while Council Member Hiller wanted to go as low as 7 years, but presented a 12 year plan.

City manager Jim Colson says he wants to take Tuesday night's ideas and present a preliminary plan tomorrow.

The county commission will decide if voters see the tax question on the August or November ballot.

Council members also heard plans for the 2015-2019 Capital Improvement Plan and the 2015-17 Capital Improvement Budget.