Saturday, November 28, 2015

RAYTOWN'S LEADING NEWS SOURCE

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Reflections from Christmas lights are reflected on a flooded street in my neighborhood. Storm sewer inlets had become clogged with leaves, creating a colorful roadway that seemed to glow in the dark.

BY GREG WALTERS
Electric Utility Franchise Tax Increase on the Horizon?
The debate this week on the blog portion of the Raytown Report is interesting. The touchstone of the discussion were remarks Paul Livius made in his lead-in to his Paul Livius Report in which he wrote a about a proposed Franchise Tax increase on electricity under consderation by the Raytown Board of Aldermen.

The current tax rate is 8%. In effect it turns a $200 electric bill into a $216.00 electric bill.

But it really does more. That is because the City of Raytown also places a 2% sales tax on top of the 8% Franchise Tax. 
It is, in effect, a tax on a tax!

The lack of public discussion on this item is concerning. Of all the issues the Board had before them at its last meeting, this is the one that affects their constituents the most.

It would be proper for our elected leaders to go back to those who voted for them to find out if the tax increase is warranted, or for that matter even wanted. The impression left by the lack of public discussion by elected officials is disconcerting. Do they hope it will be quietly approved?
Down Memory Lane . . .
It has not always been that way. In the 1980’s Raytown City politics took a turn similar to the changes that came with last April’s election. A new Board of Aldermen had been elected. All but one incumbent was defeated.

We were a bunch of young, reform minded aldermen anxious to make some changes. Within couple of years we had left our mark.

SLURRY SEAL: The first change came swiftly. The Public Works Director was told quietly but firmly that he was to end the use of slurry seal as a repair option on neighborhood streets. The messy mixture of oil and gravel had caused a public uproar in opposition. The newly elected Aldermen listened and acted.

CITY STICKER: Within the next few years this same Board continued to take a strong stance on unfair taxation placed on Raytowners.
The first major change was the elimination of the City Sticker Tax. At the time nearly all cities required automobile owners within their city to purchase a city sticker for their cars. The tax had always been a problem to enforce.

Enforcement of the tax was spotty at best. A large number of people without city stickers were rarely ticketed unless they were stopped for a more serious driving offense. The state already issued a license plate to Missourians for the privilege of driving on the roads, requiring a second city sticker smacked of double taxation.

Our solution was to eliminate the city sticker and the tax that came with it. The Mayor at the time, Doug Hall, was about as pro tax man as I ever met. He promptly vetoed the Board’s action. We eventually voted to over-ride his veto. Like dominoes falling order, the effect was immediate. Within a couple of years, the rest of the communities in the metropolitan area followed our lead. The city sticker was no more.

FRANCHISE TAX ON WATER: In the wake of eliminating the city sticker I discovered an inequity in how the city taxed Raytowners on water.

Raytown is unique. The sale of water comes from two different entities. Raytown Water Company is one. The other is the Jackson County Water Supply District No. 2. The Board of Directors of Water Supply District No. 2 refused to collect the a Franchise Tax because they were publicly owned. The Raytown Water Company is privately owned and had no choice. It had to collect the Franchise Tax.
Utility Franchise Taxes are passed back to the end user. In this case, water customers of Raytown Water Company customers were paying the tax. Water Supply District No. 2 customers did  not pay the tax.

As a result one-half of the people in Raytown paid the tax. The other half did not.

Our solution was simple. We eliminated the tax.

FAST FORWARD TO 2015: The current Board of Aldermen has an opportunity to make similar changes. Some of the members have acted accordingly. When Alderman Karen Black learned the sales tax split promised voters in 2010 for Parks and Storm Sewer work had been ignored by both the City and the Parks Department -- she went public and brought it to the table. The result has been the formation of a special committee to resolve the situation during this budget year.

Aldermen Steve Meyers and Eric Teeman have been vocal in a call for reform on the same issue.

Perhaps there will be some changes at City Hall in the future. As was pointed out at a recent meeting of the Special Committee on the sales tax, there is a reason the last two elections have resulted in wholesale replacement of members on the Board of Aldermen.

The people voted for change. Not for more of the same. Board members should re-visit their constituency and find out what their people want to see an increase of the franchise tax on electricity.

Paul’s Rant! BY PAUL LIVIUS
A couple of weeks ago the Mayor’s Special Committee to Review the Park/Storm Sewer Sales Tax had its inaugural meeting. The topic was a promise made to voters in 2010 that revenue from the sales tax would be split between Parks and Storm Sewers. In the five years since that election 100% of the money has gone to Parks and Recreation.

Meanwhile, local homeowners with storm water runoff problems that range from wet basements and flood damage to property have been told the city has no money for the repairs.

The subject was brought up last August. Since then it has moved at a snail’s pace to resolution.

An impressive number of Aldermen attended the meeting that night. Aldermen Janet Emerson, Steve Meyers, Bill VanBuskirk, and Mark Moore were all in attendance, as were committee members Karen Black and Eric Teeman. So it is known they have their eye on what is going on.

Alderman Bill VanBuskirk was the only Board member to speak in favor of maintaining the status quo whereby the Park Department receives all of the tax dollars.

At the meeting VanBuskirk is fond of reminiscing how the State of Missouri changed the law and allowed for the split to take place. He is also quick to point the State does not require a municipality to split the money – just the ability to do so.

Mr. Van Buskirk has made this statement several times.  Quite frankly, I do not buy into VanBuskirk’s rhetoric. I have searched state statutes and have not found the laws he is referring to.

So I am offering this challenge.

Bill, put up or shut up. Send us a copy of the state statute citing chapter and verse where the State of Missouri allows the city to put ballot language before the voters so misleading it would not be a stretch to call it a lie.

We will print it on the front page of the Raytown Report.


BY KAREN
A Sane Guide
to Healthy Eating
EMBRACE SNACKS: If you’re a three-squares-a-day type, start by making snack-time a part of your life. Consuming a small meal or snack not only helps manage hunger but also keeps bingeing at bay. Grab a handful of almonds or smear a banana with chocolaty hazelnut spread when hunger calls. Munching between meals boosts your energy and (bonus!) keeps your metabolism humming.

GET BALANCED: The secret to sustaining a healthy diet is balance and the best way to maintain this equilibrium is with simple geometry. Divide your plate in half and fill one side with fruits and veggies; split the other half into quarters for protein and starchy carbs. Select lean proteins and whole grain carbs for the best nutrition.

If you can’t tell a protein from a carbohydrate, get educated. Use this list to get started.  READ MORE


- - PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENTS - - 

City of Raytown
Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony
Friday, December 4th
6:00 to 7:30 p.m.
At the Downtown Pocket Park
Located at
63rd Street and Raytown Road

Santa Will Light Our Christmas Tree

With Holiday Music by

St. Regis Catholic School Students 
and
Raytown South Cardinal Chorale

Stop by Winter Wonderland
at F.O.P Lodge at 63rd Street & Blue Ridge Blvd.
Visit With Santa and Enjoy Cookies and Cider
Music by Raytown Community Band Flutes

First 120 Children
will receive a Free Holiday Kraft Kit
(Parents must accompany all children)

Hop on a Hay Ride around Downtown


Bring a can or box of food
to help REAP’s Food Pantry

-------------------------------------------------------------------

 THE RICE-TREMONTI HOME

8801 E. 66th Street
358-7423


HOLIDAY TOURS

December 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20th

  1:00-5:00 pm

$5.00 admission

Enjoy visiting all of the rooms, and Sophie’s cabin that have been decorated for the holidays.
Sip on hot cider and cookies while you visit the Christmas store for some great gift ideas to complete your shopping.


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37 comments:

Anonymous said...

Greg is it 8% or 85%??? I'm confused after reading what you wrote. Please clarify

Paul Livius said...

Anonymous 1:37

You are correct - it is 8%. Sometimes Greg gets to going too fast. Thanks for helping us out.

Paul

Anonymous said...

Maybe city hall thinks an increase in the franchise tax is a Christmas gift!

Andy Whiteman said...

BAH! HUMBUG!

Anonymous said...

Hey guys. I just wanted to say thank you for printing news stories about Raytown. You are the only ones who actually covers news that affects us. This wweek one newspaper editor thrilled us with his memory of going hunting. His partner spent most of his article on attacking the thought of global warming with one of the weirdest conspiracy theories I have read in a long time.

The other newspaper never runs an editorial of local interest. Most of their paper is devoted to running stories about news in the state. Hardly anything local. The other news source is a website that thinks the only news in Raytown takes place at one of the high schools.

Anonymous said...

I remember seeing Alderman Emerson, Green and Moore being very supportive of the storm water money as well. I say this because when I heard this from a majority of the council it was refreshing.

Anonymous said...

Stabbing at minnows as whales swim by.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I don't know. If you are not fast enough to catch a minnow you will never be able to handle a whale.

Anonymous said...

Looks like we have another Beth Linn on staff. Can't say I like her after what I've seen of her.

Steve Meyers said...

As someone who admittedly is not a huge fan of blogs based on the anonymity factor of faceless and nameless comments, I will come to the defense of Raytown's Asst Public Works Director Katie Horner Gonzalez who I believe was the reference in the "Beth Linn" comments. Yes Katie in her first experience of presenting an update on some amended projects costs was probably a bit nervous facing the Board of Alderman. If you don't think that can be a very intimidating experience especially for the 1st time, I welcome you to come on up and sign up for 5 minutes of whatever you want to discuss. Katie was prepared to discuss the work order for the emergency work repair project on 59th at and did a thorough job of explaining that. It was myself and some other Alderman who then utilized her presence to ask her about some very detailed study work that the Public Works dept is completing concerning city wide storm water project analysis. I specifically asked her about costs and project rankings which since she did not have the data in front of her and was not able to factually reply which is totally understandable. The fact that current Public Works Director Jim Melvin with what 40 plus years of experience had to step in and help with the barrage of questions was appreciated as was Katie's 1st attempt at addressing the BOA. Oh by the way if you take me up on your offer to speak to the BOA, you will be required to give your name and your address... Might take you out of your anonymous comfort zone... Just sayin.....

Raytown Newbie said...

Who is Beth Linn?

Beth said...

Thank you Mr Meyers.

Raytown Newbie said...

HMMMMM...I have posted as Raytown Newbie for over a year and now it appears there is someone else using that moniker. Anyway, I don't know who Beth Linn is either. Nice to see Mr. Meyers has posted in defense of a city staffer. Lets we the people know that these comments we make are indeed read by someone over at City Hall.

BTW.. still wondering what happened to the aborted paving/bike lane project on Blue Ridge Blvd.

And just who is chairperson of the "Save Our Turn-lane" committee.

Anonymous said...

I can appreciate mr. Meyers comment about not being a fan of anonymous writers to blogs. Not really! I think this blog is a good sounding board for Raytowners. But as long as we are on the subject of anonymous writers, I wonder if he is as concerned about anonymous city employees endorsing an increase on our electric franchise taxes? I read in one of the weekly rags that someone at city hall named "Staff" endorses the tax increase. How odd! None of the senior "staff" live in Raytown, but they are not afraid to anonymously endorse a tax increase on the electricity we Raytowners will have to pay. Alderman Meyers is not in a position to stop anonymous bloggers here. But he is in a position to do something about it at Raytown City Hall. I wonder if he will? Guess this is the time we sit back and watch and ssee if he does anything about it.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully the bike lane went bye bye because it was a bad idea. The number of rear end collisions would have gone up if the turn lame was taken away. People don't pay attention when driving as it is.

Anonymous said...

"IF" the turn lane was taken away. It is clear "IF" is the operative word here. I remember when some of our BOA talked up imaginative solutions when they ran for office. Doing nothing is not imaginative by any definition. If you have a chance to spruce up your city on someone else's dime, don't be a schmuck. Grasp the opportunity and make something of it.

By the way, IF "people don't pay attend when driving" is a true statement, isn't that a good reason to create bike lanes to get those pesky bicyclers off the road?

Think about it.

Vicky said...

Alderman Meyers -

I noticed at the meeting last Tuesday that you had the agenda moved around so that people with business with the city could be heard first. This is the 3rd or 4th time you've done this. Who is the idiot at City Hall that can't figure this out? Why do you have to keep moving the agenda around when the "professional" staff could have done it right from the beginning? When will the BOA start making these people accountable?

mb said...

anyone..... I'm curious regarding what is going into the old IGA building on Blue Ridge, I've seen the building being spruced up and have contacted the chamber of commerce. Apparently at this time the new owner hasn't said what the building is going to be used for. That sounds really odd to me, unless there's noting "official". I don't care about official announcements I just want to know what's going in there.. any whispers on the wind?

Anonymous said...

I've heard the owner of the center has finally cut a deal with Walmart to bring in the Neighborhood store.

Raytown Newbie said...

Dear 4:41,

You just made me smile. Thanks

RN

Ralph Stewart said...

Hey Vicky, I saw that meeting, too. Anyone know why Bill Van Buskirk can't remember to turn on his microphone? Or is it he is afraid someone might quote his inane statements?

Anonymous said...

Goodby Applemart

Andy Whiteman said...

Ralph, Christine White was so soft spoken I never could hear her even with the microphone (and I was at the meetings). The only time she spoke up loud enough to be heard was when she was angry. The mic issue could be resolved if the mayor turned mics on and off. I suggested it once to Bower and was told it would be too expensive to rewire the mics.

Mb, In general big business keeps there plans secret to protect them from competitors and from public outcry. Sometimes plans change midstream or get cancelled.

Andy

Anonymous said...

Hey 4:41
But rumor has been around for a long time
If you're speaking of the 63rd in Raytown Trafficway location from what I can find out that is totally false once again

Anonymous said...

Hey 9:54

Which Applemart are you referring to? The one on Woodson? Why would that be effected by anything happening on 350 Highway? Or are you referring to the one on Raytown Road? You know, the one that closed a few months ago?

Peter said...

There is a applemarket in Woodson and one on 43rd st both are doing very well and have always done well despite changes around them. The applemarket on raytown rd became a sack and save and closed awhile back. And I'm not sure what the person was referring to on 350. But not to worry about either Applemarket; both locations have a steady stream of business.

Beth said...

To 7:31 pm
What is going on at 350 hiway? Wasn't that a sack n save on raytown rd after Johns applemarket ? John at one time owned both Applemarkets as my kids worked for him back in 1989-91

Anonymous said...

I think the city should promote bike/walking trails along our major streets. It gives us an alternative to jumping in a car to to make our daily rounds. It promotes small businesses that cater to neighborhoods. If we have leaders at city hall clever enough to take advantage of grants from the federal government to help pay for all of this then we should do it. Each time we ignore a possibility it is a missed opportunity for Raytown to become a better place for all of us.

Ralph Stewart said...

BTW - I sign my name. Why don't you?

Ralph Stewart said...

Please, please show us where anyone, anywhere on this blog in any way indicated there was some sort of Constitutional obligation for the Federal government to spend money on the local level. I have been through the blog and the comments to the blog for several weeks and can find no suggestion as to what you are talking about. I'm beginning to think you just like to rant about topics without knowing any of the necessary facts.

Anonymous said...

What on earth is a constitutional obligation? There is not doubt federal tax dollars pay for improvements in Raytown. Anyone questioning that should take a walk on Blue Ridge Boulevard sidewalks on Raytown's western border. Yup! Paid for by federal grants. Which is really just our money taking a very expensive trip to Washington, DC before being spent here. I am not certain, but it appears the BOA is missing an opportunity to improve Blue Ridge Boulevard from 59th Street to the northern city limits. The bike trails would be paid for in part by a federal grant. No one has explained why the city should not take advantage of this opportunity to spruce up one of Raytown's prettier streets.

Beth said...

Yes on the next blog it talks about those grants and it is a great idea

Raytown Newbie said...

Hello Anonymous 8:58,

And thank you for a literate and common sense post. Yes indeed, there may not be a "constitutional obligation" for the Feds to spend money at the local level but it is in fact a long established practice going back many decades. Too bad we can't just keep that money here to spend as we wish instead of sending it to them and having them dole it out as they see fit. And in most cases attaching their strings to it. And for sure a hefty surcharge for "administering" it.

But.... to the point. Why wasn't the original Blue Ridge Blvd. plan followed through on? It is my understanding, as well, that a goodly portion of the project costs would have been recaptured through Federal grants for adding the bike lanes. There also may have been additional funding for sidewalk improvements to bring the handicap ramps into up-to-date standards (surmising here).

To my amazement, I first heard about the project earlier in the year when I was in a Lees Summit bike shop. The buzz was how Raytown was taking advantage of this opportunity to create a very real win-win (new roadway plus bike-lanes). Then within weeks a survey crew showed up on Blue Ridge Blvd, locating and mapping the sidewalks and curbs that needed attention. The project was to begin at 59th and run to the north city limits. The scope of the project was to include milling and repaving, replacement of broken curbs, replacement of sunken sidewalks adjacent to storm drain structures and replacement of outdated handicap sidewalk ramps. The new lane designations would include bike lanes and turn lanes only at the major intersections.

Here is my guess as to what happened instead:
The the news of the project found its way to some mover/shaker type(s) who formed the "Save-Our-Turn-Lane" committee (very tongue in cheek here). The committee must have great influence, because next thing I hear is that the project has been put on hold. This was all done under the table and without a public debate, as far as I know.

And as you posted previously: "No one has explained why the city should not take advantage of this opportunity to spruce up one of Raytown's prettier streets."

Anyway, thanks Gregg, for allowing me to speak out.

Regards, RN

Raytown Newbie said...

Pretty soon now it will be check writing time for real estate and personal property taxes. Almost $4K for me. Most of that will go to Raytown School District C2. Some for operating and some for debt service. Then there's the City of Raytown... some for General Fund and some for Parks and Recreation. Wholly Cow!!! The Parks and Rec has their own separate line item on both real estate and personal property taxes. And it's equal to more than half of the amount that goes to the city for the General Fund. Now I am assuming that the general fund money goes to pay for all sorts of city expenditures, while the levy for the Parks and Recreation goes just to them. And they need more in the form of a sales tax??? What the heck???
This tax Bill information is a real mystery to me. The Raytown Fire District has 3 items: General Fund, Debt Service, and PENSION! Makes me wonder where the pension money for the other city employees is raised. Other than a wee little amount for the Blind Pension, the Raytown Fire District is alone in having its own line item for Pension funding on my tax bills.

I guess all that is documented in the City of Raytown budget. That is probably available somewhere. Does anybody know where? Might be interesting to read. I am also curious as to what the pension benefits are for different employee classes at the City of Raytown. I bet the Parks people have a nice pension fund building up with all that tax money flowing in. I have always thought that a small city like Raytown should pay a 25% premium to its retirees who keep a permanent residence in the city. Or I guess you could call it a 25% penalty for those who take the money and run. Oh, I'm sure it's not ever gonna happen but who knows? Anyway, we can't even get our big shot city employees to live here. And what about all the local business owners who live and pay their taxes elsewhere?? Guess what? there's a bunch of them.

Okay, that's enough from me.

Have a great day Raytowners

RN

Anonymous said...

When a person retires a lot of times they move to their lake home or to a warmer climate. It's their retirement; why would anyone suggest they should stay in the city they worked in before retirement

Anonymous said...

Budget information = http://www.raytown.mo.us/index.asp?SEC={FFF9B872-0550-41DE-8396-DAF8D4CAAEF7}&Type=B_BASIC&persistdesign=none

Raytown Newbie said...

Dear 3:20,

I think I would like a retired policeman, fireman, or EMT living on my block or next door. Heck why not offer an incentive to those who have so much invested in our city already? Never know... one day they could even be your Alderman or Mayor. Just a symbolic gesture. No-one says they have to stay here. Maybe 10% would be more doable. Just thinking out loud today.

Regards, RN