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Commission to discuss road work, sales tax

By Burk Krohe

City commissioners will vote on a change order for the K-18 project at Tuesday’s meeting. They will also discuss options for renewal of the countywide half-cent sales tax. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m.

The Miller Parkway/Davis Drive and K-18 intersection is currently closed due to the Kansas Department of Transportation’s upgrade of K-18. Residents and commissioners expressed concern about the effect the closure would have on emergency vehicles. In response, commissioners directed the public works department to coordinate with the Manhattan Fire Department to develop an emergency only access to the Lee Mill Heights and Miller Ranch neighborhoods.

The access would be via a Miller Parkway extension at Scenic Drive and secured with a locked gate. Emergency vehicles would be able to unlock the gate in the event of an emergency. The change order consists of installing the locked gate, adding additional depth to the existing 4-inch rock base, improving drainage along Miller Parkway and installing a storm sewer at Scenic Drive and Miller Parkway.

The change order would result in a net increase of $39,410 to the K-18 project. Interim financing would be obtained by temporary notes. After the completion of the project, 10-year general obligation bonds will be issued as permanent financing.

The sale tax discussion is a continuation of a topic that has occupied both city and county commissioners for months. Riley County residents passed the tax in 2002 for a period of 10 years. The proceeds are split among the city, county and smaller cities within the county. The county has used its portion of the proceeds for road and bridge improvements, while the city has used its portion for economic development purposes.

However, city and county officials have not reached a consensus on renewal of the tax. County officials believe they are obligated to put the same ballot question in front of voters because of language in the 2002 ballot question. City officials disagree with that opinion, and have suggested alternatives they believe will generate greater revenue.

Currently, city commissioners appear to have three options:

1. A half-cent sales tax with no inter-local agreement. City officials believe that would generate about $2.7 million annually for the city. They say other cities in the county would still benefit, and Riley County would receive about $1.5 million annually, or about $330,000 less than what is generated under the current sales tax and interlocal agreement.

generates about $800,000 more annually than a half-cent county sales tax.

2. A half-cent city-only sales tax. Officials believe that this approach would generate about $800,000 more annually for the city than a half-cent county sales tax. It would also allow the city to still enter into an inter-local agreement with the county to maintain or increase funding to that body. The city would not dictate how the county used its portion of the proceeds. Such an approach would allow the city to complete economic development projects in the Pottawatomie County portion of Manhattan without requiring approval from the Riley County Commission.  Riley County would need to decided whether it wants to share any of its proceeds with smaller cities in Riley County.

3. A quarter cent city of Manhattan sales tax and a quarter-cent county sales tax. The city would receive about $2.5 million annually, and the city could proceed with its own ballot language. There is, however, concern that two ballot questions may be perceived as competing, which could confuse or dissuade voters. Beyond that, the combined proceeds of a quarter-cent county sales tax ($2.1 million annually) and a quarter-cent city sales tax ($2.5 million annually) are less than the proceeds from a half-cent city-wide sales tax ($5 million annually).

Commissioners will not vote on the issue because it is a discussion item.

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