Kansas City voters approve health levy for 9 more years

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By LESLIE COLLINS
Northeast News
April 10, 2013 

Kansas City voters overwhelmingly approved renewing the temporary portion of the health levy for another nine years during the April 2 special election.

Prior to the election, the health levy renewal received backing from a number of groups, including the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and the Kansas City City Council.

“There’s no question about the continued need we have in Kansas City to provide these health services for our citizens,” City Council member Ed Ford said during a Jan. 9 city Finance, Governance and Ethics Committee meeting. “Since the tax was first adopted eight years ago, we have gone through a terrible recession, a jobless economy. A lot of people who had (health) insurance no longer do.”

The temporary health levy accounts for approximately $15 million or about one-third of the city’s permanent Health Levy Fund and is a 22 cent ad valorem tax per $100 of assessed valuation on real and tangible personal property within Kansas City. An owner of a $100,000 home pays less than $4 per month on the temporary portion of the health levy. This portion of the health levy helps fund the ambulance service and indigent medical care, and last year, it helped pay for more than 140,000 health care visits in Kansas City.

Kansas City voters approved the health levy by a 76 percent to 24 percent margin.

Also on the ballot was Question 2, which voters approved by a margin of 78 percent to 22 percent. Question 2 closed a dated loophole that could mean millions of additional annual revenue for Kansas City. In 1968, Kansas City enacted a convention and tourism tax, which is paid by guests staying in Kansas City hotels and motels. However, non-profit organizations were exempt from this tax, which currently stands at 7.5 percent. As a result, Kansas City lost $9.9 million in revenue between 2007 and 2011. The convention and tourism tax is the only source of funding for the Neighborhood Tourism Development Fund (NTDF), which helps neighborhoods host and promote events. In addition, the tax funds operating and capital expenses at the Kansas City Convention Center and the Convention and Visitor’s Association.

Kansas Citians turned down Question 3 by a 77 percent to 23 percent margin. Question 3, which was placed on the ballot through petition, asked voters if the city of Kansas City should be prohibited from entering into or approving future contracts associated with nuclear weapons facilities in which the city has financial gain. If approved, Question 3 also would have prevented the city from offering future financial incentives, like bonds and tax credits, to nuclear weapons facilities.

Proponents of Question 3 said the initiative was about moral and religious obligations and that the city shouldn’t support the production of nuclear weapons. They also pointed out that the U.S. continues to reduce its stockpile of nuclear weapons. Opponents of Question 3, however, argued that approving the initiative would cost Kansas City jobs and harm the local economy.

“Once again voters have sent a clear signal about what they’d like to see for the future of this community,” said Jim Heeter, Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce president and chief executive officer. “The margins of victory – or in the case of Question 3 – defeat were substantial and gratifying. The KC Chamber Board said ‘Yes. Yes. No.’  And so did the community. These results will benefit the business climate in Greater Kansas City.”

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