Two recent events have led me to suspect that as part of the plan for the revitalization of downtown Wichita, we’re going to see a sales tax proposed.
The first is Phillip Brownlee’s editorial in last Friday’s Wichita Eagle, which carried the title Taxes are lower than many think. While this editorial focused on property taxes, it’s easy to see this as an argument that Wichitans can bear the burden of more taxation. Softening up the electorate, so to speak.
Then, there’s this email sent to the Wichita city council and Sedgwick county commission members:
I recently received the attached information on Oklahoma City’s next plan for their downtown area. This is their MAPS program that spurred their downtown developed. I thought you might find this of interest.
President and CEO
Go Wichita Convention & Visitors Bureau
MAPS — that’s the program that funded Oklahoma City’s downtown improvements through a sales tax, with a second version funding school projects — will be voted on in December. If approved, a 1% sales tax will raise funds for more downtown projects. This email, without saying so directly, endorses the idea of a sales tax for downtown development.
What’s the sales tax in Oklahoma City, you may be wondering? It’s 8.375%. It won’t change if the new MAPS plan is approved by the voters, as a current 1% tax will expire.
That sales tax was billed as “temporary,” and it does appear that it will expire as planned. But, city leaders are recommending approval of the new sales tax. This is similar to the sales tax for the downtown Wichita arena, when as that tax was nearing its end, Sedgwick County Commissioner Tim Norton “wondered … whether a 1 percent sales tax could help the county raise revenue.” (“Norton floats idea of 1 percent county sales tax,” Wichita Eagle, April 4, 2007)
The sales tax for Wichita is 6.3%.
City leaders are likely to use the the Intrust Bank Arena in downtown Wichita as an example of a successful project funded through a sales tax. But any assessment of the success of this project is about two years away. The fact that the arena exists is evidence of a minimum level of competence. It will be some time before we know whether the arena can support itself without being a drain on taxpayers, despite the provisions of the SMG management contract.
In Wichita, we’re going to have to be watchful. The drumbeats of new taxation have started.