Transit Action Network (TAN)

Advocates for Improved and Expanded Transit in the Kansas City Region.

Archive for March, 2013

Online Transit Forum – Candidates for Mayor of WYCO/KCK – Election April 2

Posted by Transit Action Network on March 28, 2013


UG logoTuesday, April 2nd is the election for Mayor of Wyandotte County /KCK.  This re-print of our February online mayoral transit forum contains only the responses from Ann Murguia and Mark Holland.   We appreciate the candidates talking the time to respond to our questionnaire and sharing their philosophy, vision and ideas on transit.

We chose questions on Transit Philosophy, Funding, Meeting Increased Transit Demand, KCATA, and Creating a Transit-Friendly Environment.

Be sure to send this article to citizens of Wyandotte County so they can be informed about the candidates’ positions. Transit is a major issue in Wyandotte County since there is significant demand for a good transit system from the citizens.

The answers are given in the order TAN received them. We do not endorse a particular candidate but believe voters should be well-informed as to candidates’ knowledge of the subject and their positions. The responses are color coded in order to improve ease of reading and finding the response from a particular candidate. The candidates’ initials are used to identify their responses.

Section 1- Transit Philosophy
A. What do you see in the future for transit in Wyandotte County?

Mark Holland

Mark Holland
responses in blue

AM – We need to create the kind of public transportation system that incent ridership. I think we are off to a good start with the $10 million grant we received to improve the State Avenue corridor, but we need to do more.

Ann Murguia

Ann Murguia
responses in green

MH – I think we are going to have to be very creative in addressing the needs of our community. State and Federal funding has been under attack, and these funds are essential to providing the level of service necessary to serve our community. My hope is to improve access to transit.
I supported the “Complete Street” initiative that calls for more sidewalks. Without access for people to walk to the bus from their neighborhoods, it becomes very challenging to increase ridership.

B. Do you support continued county funding of public transit as an essential service throughout Wyandotte County?

AM – Yes….many WYCO residents depend on public transportation to meet their daily needs. The government needs to assist in developing a quality state of the art system that will create such demand, that over time, through ridership, will pay for itself.

MH – Yes. I wish it were stronger, but I believe there will always be a need for a local match for State and Federal funds.

C. Federal funding is dramatically decreasing for ALL transit. A decrease in State transit funding is also a possibility. Should Unified Government replace these lost funds, both capital and operating, in order to maintain the current level of transit service?

AM – I don’t think government is our only option when it comes to public transportation funding. The philanthropic community has a lot of interest in seeing a more healthy Kansas City. I have good relationships with this community and would hope to be able to work with them and private business to offset some of the costs associated with developing a quality transit system that over time could sustain itself.

MH – We are facing State and Federal funding cuts in numerous areas. Transit is one that is heavily dependent on this funding. It would be nice to say that we will not cut services, but the reality is that if this is not a national priority we will be hard pressed to replace the loss dollar for dollar.

Section 2 – Funding
A. Currently local transit funding in Wyandotte County comes out of General Revenue Funds. 1. What local transit funding mechanisms do you think are best for Wyandotte County?

AM – I think there needs to be new ideas in addressing funding for transit. This is a long-standing problem for governments across the metropolitan area and nationally. As I said above, I don’t think government is our only option when it comes to public transportation funding. The philanthropic community has a lot of interest in seeing a more healthy Kansas City. Public transportation promotes a healthier lifestyle. I would hope to be able to work with charitable organizations and private business to offset some of the costs associated with developing a quality transit system that over time could sustain itself.

MH – I think General Fund dollars are the best place for this fund.

2. Would you consider a small county-wide transit tax to help sustain the transit system Please explain your reasoning.

AM – I think any time we talk about taxing the people in WYCO that needs to be placed on a voting ballot.

MH – That would not be my first choice. When we unified the government 16 years ago, we brought a whole plethora of “special taxes” back into the General Budget. I understand the thought that it looks like more of a priority if it stands alone, but I think it is unnecessarily cumbersome in annual budgeting process.

B. Transit demand in Wyandotte County continues to increase. How and where would you get additional local transit funding to meet the increasing demand?

AM – I think it is simple supply and demand. As transit demands increase our product will become better and ridership will increase and therefore revenue from riders will increase.

MH – I think this is where we need to be creative. It is very difficult to put the cost on users, who in our particular community are often the least able to support it. We need to continue tracking which lines are running at capacity and which ones are not. Are there areas where we can expand call for service? Are there areas where we can run smaller vehicles? We need to keep in mind the goal of transit is to get people from point A to point B, not just to run buses.

C. How will you work to increase Wyandotte County’s level of transit funding

1. at the state level?

AM – On many occasions I have been successful in reaching across party lines and will use that experience to lobby for public transportation.

MH- We need to continue to lobby for State funding based on ridership and not on population. This is one of the biggest challenges. Transit money should follow the need, not the area.

2. at the federal level?

AM – Again I have good relationships with our elected officials on the federal level that will allow my voice to be heard for the people of Wyandotte County.

MH – We need to continue to engage with regional lobbying efforts. These collaborative conversations with the entire Metro area will yield far better results than if we go individually. I think the ongoing success of KCATA is the best hope Wyandotte County has for more funding.

Section 3 – Meeting increasing demand

A. Areas such as Rosedale, with very limited transit service, are trying to get additional service to meet the needs of its residents, many of which are transit dependent. What process should exist and/or what criteria should be met in order for residents to get new or expanded transit service?

AM – I think we have many great opportunities in Rosedale specifically to improve transit in some very creative ways. We already have a great relationship with University of Kansas and I definitely think involving them in discussions about public transportation can help improve services for that area of WYCO. But do not forget that there are other areas that struggle to get their fair share of public transportation like the Turner area. Those residents tax dollars pay for that service yet they receive nothing for it at this time. This situation needs to be addressed as well.

MH – Again, creativity. Is there a way to add call for service? How can we partner through KCATA and the Jo, leveraging the proximity to KCMO and Johnson County?

B. Route 101 will change to the Connex service later this year. Will you make sure that the upgrade in service level is enough to alleviate the current overcrowded conditions, without negatively impacting other services?

AM – As to the details of the routes, we hire professional transit staff that make those decisions. These are not made at the Commission level. I have confidence in our staff and their ability to manage over crowding without impacting other services they provide.

MH – Absolutely. It looks like this improvement will make a huge difference.

Section 4 – KCATA
A. What characteristics would you look for in making appointments to the KCATA Board of Commissioners?

AM – I believe that the characteristics of the current Board members are what we need to maintain in the future.

MH – We need collaborative, regionally minded individuals who have a heart for all the benefits transit brings to the people and the environment.

B. Unified Government currently contracts with KCATA for only 90 days at a time. This policy gives a negative impression regarding the stability of the transit system in the county. What needs to happen to return to a full year contract like other municipalities?

AM – This is a staff decision and I would need to consult with staff to better understand why we are contracting in this manner.

MH – This looks like a reasonable request. I would need to speak with our team at the city to see why this policy is in place.

C. Would you consider contracting with KCATA for all fixed route services? Please explain why or why not?

AM – Again, this is a staff decision and I would need to consult with staff before making any changes.

MH – With the State and Federal spending cuts, I don’t think we can take anything off the table. This would have serious considerations for our UG employees and I would not do anything without seeking assurances about their future. Again, we need to be creative in how we serve the community.

Section 5 – Creating a transit-friendly environment

What non-financial actions can be taken to create a more transit-friendly environment in

1. Kansas City, Kansas?

2. Village West?

AM – I currently use our transit system on occasion and I find it to be a very friendly environment. However, I am sure there are always ways to improve and in order to know how to create a “more” friendly environment we need to ask the people using the current system on a regular basis.

MH – 1. KCK – We are looking at residential developments in and around the new 7th street transit center downtown. The more we can foster “transit friendly” development and encourage growth nearby, the better. We are also looking for a major redevelopment at Indian Springs around the new transit center there. I think the strategic location of this center automatically makes Indian Springs a new kind of destination.

MH – 2. Village West – Coordinating routes with businesses and restaurants to make sure the buses are running at the right times for opening and closing. This makes the use of transit a more organic, and less onerous option for the employee.

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Last Chance – Speak up for KCATA Budget at KCMO Finance Committee Meeting Mar 20

Posted by Transit Action Network on March 19, 2013


METRO ogoThe city council is almost finished working on the FY 2013/2014 budget. Tomorrow may be your last chance to comment in front of the council on the Public Mass Transportation Fund (1/2-cent Transposition Sales Tax) budget.kcmo_big_logo

Finance, Governance & Ethics Committee
March 20, 2013 at 8:30 am
10th Floor Committee Room
City Hall
414 E. 12th Street
Kansas City, MO 64106
 

In your testimony about the budget for the 1/2 cent Transportation Sales Tax and Ordinance 130173:

  1. Encourage the committee to table the new ordinance, 130173, which is an attempt to deal with the transit issues we’ve have all been concerned about. The council hasn’t had sufficient time to thoroughly discuss the ordinance and determined how to get the best result. It is possible to complete this budget with the current ordinance.
  2. Even if the committee tables the new ordinance, which we hope it will, please ask them to comply with the existing ordinance relative to non-transit uses and restore funding to KCATA.
  3. Ask that $5 million, currently allocated to non-transit uses, be moved to KCATA:
    •  to comply with current ordinance 100951 to restore funding to KCATA.
    •  to eliminate KCATA’s need to use its emergency reserve account to maintain current transit service levels.
  4. Ask that the streetcar only uses this funding source for one year, while an alternative funding source is identified.

Currently the FY 2013/2014 budget for the  city’s use of the 1/2 sales tax money includes $6 million dollars allocated to non-transit projects, $2 million to the streetcar, and $600 thousand to administrative fees.

Based on Ordinance 100951, city non-transit uses were supposed to start shrinking in 2011 so the KCATA budget could rise to 95% of the available funds from the ½ cent Transportation Sales tax by 2014. KCATA would only be allocated 71% of the available funds in the new budget.

The 2003 and 2008 elections for a 3/8 cent sales tax were based on the assumption that the ½ sales tax would continue to go to the KCATA but here is what actually happened.

1_2_cent_comparison_2003_2014

Up until now the city has ignored its own ordinance and continued to spend money on other priorities.

Contrary to what most people think, KCATA has not been receiving 7/8 cents in sales taxes (sum of ½ cent and 3/8 cent sales taxes). In the proposed budget KCATA is budgeted LESS money from the ½ cent transportation sales tax than it received in 2003 although receipts have increased considerably.

In 2003/2004 the city was only using $1.3 million for non-transit uses from the ½ cent transportation sales tax.

Here’s what we propose:

  1. Table the new ordinance: it is not needed.
  2. Move $5 million from Public Works Capital Improvements to KCATA. That would move the budget closer to complying with the current ordinance and eliminate the need for KCATA to use up its emergency money. Based on the ordinance, KCATA should be receiving close to 88% of the 1/2 cent Transportation Sales Tax for the proposed budget.
  3. Due to the short time-frame, use $2 million from the Public Mass Transportation Fund  for the streetcar for this one-year only.
  4. Once the budgeting process is completed, begin working on alternative funding sources for the $2 million, preferably out of the TDD.  The city sold the idea of the streetcar being funded out of the TDD. Do this and provide long-term financial stability for the streetcar using those new funds.
  5. Convene the Transit Working Group that Councilwoman Circo proposed at the March 6 meeting of this committee, and let that group take some time to explore all of the transit-related issues involved.  There are a lot of issues, and decisions related to transit should not be made in a vacuum.
  6. Include Transit Action Network in that Transit Working Group, as we asked two weeks ago.

The council can work this out, but the time is running out. The budget has to be voted on next week.

Contact Kansas City Mayor and City Council

Mayor’s office 816-513-3500 email Mayor@kcmo.org

Council office 816-513-1368

Go to http://kcmo.org/CKCMO/CityOfficials/CityCouncilOffice/index.htm for phone numbers and emails for specific council members

TAN has been writing about this issue since January when the city manager released his proposed budget for FY 2013/2014.

See previous articles for more information.  KCATA and the KCMO Budget-Video of the March 6 hearing of the Finance, Governance and Ethics Committee

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KCATA and the KCMO Budget-Video of the March 6 hearing of the Finance, Governance and Ethics Committee

Posted by Transit Action Network on March 13, 2013


METRO ogoPeople are  speaking up about the failure of Kansas City’s proposed budget for FY2013-2014 to properly fund KCATA as required by Ordinance 100951 and expected by elections in both 2003 and 2008.

Watch the testimony: http://kansascity.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=7223kcmo_big_logo

Testimony related to transit begins at 38:30 and ends about 1:41:30

  • Loretta Jackson-Cowans about 38:30
  • Councilman Ed Ford about 41:40
  • Councilwoman Marcason about 46:40
  • Mark Huffer of KCATA about 48:02
  • Councilwoman Cindy Circo about 1:05:08  – We need to create a working group…
  • Councilman Michael Brooks about 1:07:00
  • City Manager Troy Schulte about 1:07:12
  • Jonothan Walker of ATU about 1:19:22
  • Sheila Styron of The Whole Person about 1:23:25
  • Janet Rogers of Transit Action Network about 1:26:13
  • Ron McLinden of Transit Action Network about 1:33:02
  • Closing remarks by Council members about 1:39:10
  • End of transit testimony about 1:41:30

Lynn Horsley’s KC Star article about the meeting http://www.kansascity.com/2013/03/06/4103920/concern-about-kc-bus-money-going.html

Get more information:  Attend KCMO Finance Committee Meeting March 6 – – City Wants to Replace Ordinance That Restored Funding to KCATA

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Attend MoDOT Long-Range Plan Meetings in Kansas City – March 12, 13 and 14

Posted by Transit Action Network on March 11, 2013


MOTMMoDOT is inviting input on the latest update of its long-range transportation, “On the Move.” It is extremely important that transit advocates attend the meetings to make sure transit is a priority.

The project website http://www.missourionthemove.org/about-on-the-move/ says,
“On the Move is a community engagement effort led by the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) to gather direction and insight from Missourians on major transportation issues and priorities across the state.”
 
Three “listening sessions” are scheduled for Kansas City this week.

KCI Expo Center, Ambassador Room
11730 NW Ambassador Drive , Kansas City, MO, 64153
March 12, 2013 6:00 pm
Link to RSVP: http://www.missourionthemove.org/event/on-the-move-listening-session-kansas-city-region/ 
 
 
UMKC, Atterbury Student Success Center, Pierson Auditorium
5000 Holmes Street, Kansas City, MO, 64110
March 13, 2013 5:00 pm
Link to RSVP:http://www.missourionthemove.org/event/on-the-move-listening-session-kansas-city-region-2/  
 
Union Station, Chamber Board Room
30 West Pershing Road, Kansas City, MO, 64108
March 14, 2013 5:00 pm
Link to RSVP: http://www.missourionthemove.org/event/on-the-move-listening-session-kansas-city-region-3/

Mo_transit_fundingMoDOT is asking for RSVP’s to attend these sessions, but we encourage you to attend even if you have not RSVP’d.

While the purpose of the meetings seems simple enough — to gain public input to update the LRTP — it’s complicated by the fact that legislation is moving through the Missouri General Assembly to put a one-penny sales tax for transportation on the ballot in 2014.  That tax would be for a ten-year period, and would fund a list of specific projects. 

Thus, there’s some ambiguity about whether these meetings are just about long-range needs, or whether they are also about coming up with a project list.  Even top MoDOT staff have not been able to express clearly how the listening sessions will relate to the project list.

Our hope is that the listening sessions will stay focused on the big picture — Missourians’ long-term needs and desires — rather than individual projects.  Ask people about long-term needs and that’s what they’ll think and talk about.  Ask them what projects they want and the session could turn into a “my project is more important than yours” contest.

Nonetheless, transit advocates need to attend the listening sessions this week to help assure that additional funding for transit is included in whatever package is ultimately presented to the voters. Identify and prioritize the long-term needs and desires first, then choose projects to fulfill that list.

We suggest you take the following perspective into whichever listening session you attend:

  •  Roads and bridges are important, but Missouri also needs to increase its investment in other transportation alternatives.
  • Missouri’s population is aging, and with that goes an increased need for both urban and rural public transit.  Missouri currently provides less than $1 million per year to all transit providers combined — only $119,000 this year for KCATA.  Nearly every other state with an urban population invests much more in transit.
  •  More and more people are voting with their pocket books to drive less and use transit more.  That’s reflected in the decline in the percent of adults who have a driver’s license, a trend that’s evident in every age group but especially among young adults.
  •  MoDOT should continue to add accommodations for cyclists and pedestrians along its routes, particularly in cities and towns.
  • Missouri needs a stable source of funding to continue and increase the popular “Missouri River Runner” trains linking Kansas City and St. Louis.  These trains are operated by Amtrak but funded by Missouri.

So please attend one of the meetings and tell them to make transit a priority.

http://www.missourionthemove.org/community-engagement/schedule-of-events/

You can also express what you want to see in Missouri’s transportation future online.

http://www.missourionthemove.org/community-engagement/project-suggestion-form/

See The Blue Ribbon Citizens Committee on Missouri’s Transportation Needs Final Report 2013

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KC Downtown Streetcar Open House Re-scheduled for Mar 6

Posted by Transit Action Network on March 6, 2013


Attend the KC Downtown Streetcar Open House on March 6.KC_streetcar

Union Station from 4-7 pm.

This open house is re-scheduled from February 21.

Link to the  information boards, factsheet and maps. If you have any questions about these materials or the KC Downtown Streetcar project, please email the team at info@kcstreetcar.org or call them  at 816-822-3011.

http://www.kcstreetcar.org/publicmeetinginfo.htm

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Attend KCMO Finance Committee Meeting March 6 – – City Wants to Replace Ordinance That Restored Funding to KCATA

Posted by Transit Action Network on March 5, 2013


kcmo_big_logoPlease attend the Finance Committee meeting tomorrow to object to replacing Ordinance 100951, which restored funding to KCATA, with a different ordinance. Even if you don’t speak, your presence in support of transit is very valuable.  If you can’t make the meeting, continue to contact the Mayor and council members.

Finance, Governance & Ethics Committee
March 6, 2013 at 8:30 am
10th Floor Committee Room
City Hall
414 E. 12th Street
Kansas City, MO 64106

Since the City Manager released his budget for FY 2013-2014 Transit Action Network has been fighting against the city’s blatant violation of Ordinance 100951, which was passed in 2010 to restore funding to KCATA.

Instead of restoring funding to KCATA the city is unilaterally increasing money to non-transit projects. In 2003 only 5% of the money went to non-transit projects, but this budget has increased non-transit expenses to 18%. In 2010, when we exposed what the city was doing, the council passed Ordinance 100951 to restore funding to KCATA up to the 95% level by May 2014. In 2010 non-transit projects received  $4.5 million and the ordinance required them to start decreasing this amount in order to increase the KCATA amount. Instead they have purposely ignored the ordinance and raised the non-transit budget to $6 million in the proposed budget.  There is no excuse for this since we started reminding the mayor, council and the city manager about this ordinance last September.

So we spoke up again this year asking the council to

  1. Honor its commitment to voters and taxpayers
  2. Obey Ordinance 100951 – – the KCATA share should be close to 88% of the available money in this budget, instead of only 71%
  3. Support the bus system and fully pay the bill for bus service to KCATA instead of forcing KCATA to use $5 million of emergency funds to keep the buses rolling at this level.

Instead responses have included

1 So what if KCATA has to use up the emergency money.

2. So what if we made a promise to the voters-we make promises all the time we don’t keep.

3. We aren’t doing anything wrong because we aren’t cutting service (Does it occur to them that service will have to be cut when the emergency money runs out so this is not a sustainable plan for funding transit? Does it occur to them that it is coercive to force a congressionally chartered bi-state authority to use its emergency funds to provide their transit service?)

4. So what if we are violating the ordinance-we’ll just change it like we do all the time.

And changing the ordinance is exactly what they are planning on doing. Instead of moving in the direction to restore money to KCATA, they are working on a new ordinance to do exactly what they want instead of what voters wanted. I think people believed Mayor James when he commented on this issue BEFORE he was elected, so why is he taking the opposite position now?

Candidate James, February 2011: First, we must restore trust in City Hall and confidence that we are spending tax dollars wisely. As I mentioned before, I will make sure that money goes to the purpose specified by voters.  For example, I will make sure that the tax revenue voters devoted to the KCATA gets to the KCATA.  Withholding such devoted funds breeds the type of widespread distrust of City Hall that must be fixed.

Although the meeting is about the budget and this ordinance is about providing transit vs diverting that money to other uses, it is significant that this committee also reviews the city Ethics and Governance issues.

We would like to know how it is ethical to take tax money and then unilaterally decide to spend it somewhere else.  The deal made with voters was more contractual than just a casual promise.

1. TWICE the city made a well documented offer to voters – – if voters agreed to pay another 3/8-cent sales tax for transit, then the city would add the new money to the ½ cent transportation sales tax and KCATA would receive 7/8 cents in sales tax to provide a bigger, better bus system.

2. The voters accepted this offer by passing the new transit tax.

3. Millions of tax dollars are collected to pay for the bus service.

Instead there has been an increasing amount of money diverted to non-transit uses even after Ordinance 100951 was passed to correct this failure to fulfill the explicit contract.  If you made this type of deal with a business, then the failure to comply would be an obvious breach of contract. It is not ok to use your money for something other than what was agreed to in the contract. If nothing else, why isn’t this a serious ethics violation?

Governance is not just about passing laws, regulations and ordinances – it is about enforcing them. Why is the head administrator allowed to ignore direction from the elected officials and an important ordinance by diverting millions of dollars to projects of his choice instead of where both the voters and the council have directed him to spend the money?  Why is the response to this flagrant disrespect for the rule of law (which an ordinance is) allowed? Why, instead of making him change the budget, is the city considering changing the ordinance?

If KCATA has to severely cut service in a couple of years, you’ll be told that KCATA was given 7/8 cents in sales tax and they couldn’t live within their means. That explanation will be a serious distortion of what happened.

How does the streetcar fit in? Although the $2 million is small in comparison to the money being diverted to non-transit uses, it is significant over time. If they take $2 million for the 25 year length of the bonds, that is $50 million dollars being taken away from the bus service. That is about 20 years of operating the Troost MAX service. That $2 million could pay to operate a Prospect or North Oak MAX. The money they want to take for the streetcar isn’t excess money lying around. Using the money for roads and streetcars will have a negative impact on bus service levels in the foreseeable future.

Although the streetcar is a great addition to transit in the city it is not a game changer for the vast majority of riders and it doesn’t reduce the city’s responsibility to provide bus service throughout the city. They shouldn’t be taking any money from the bus funding until they have exhausted the funding mechanisms in the Transportation Development District (TDD), which they have not done.

Don’t be naive and think the streetcar is only going to take the $2 million. Don’t fall for the “it is all transit“ line. Once they start identifying this money for streetcars, then expect any additional streetcars to take even more money away from the bus system.  Although it may seem good to limit the streetcar amount to the $2 million they have in this budget, it still sets the precedent that this is streetcar money and they will just change the ordinance in the future if they want more.

If the city wants to use this money for the streetcar, then let it be from the 5%.  What we don’t want is to start carving away at this money, which is all the bus system has. We don’t want 5%-20% to Public Works, 6% to the first streetcar, 5%-17% hoarded in the ending balance, more streetcars, etc., etc.

Keep it simple – – 95% to KCATA for bus service and they can use the rest as they please for transportation. The 5% can be used for public works, streetcars or any ending balance in the account.

Below is the proposed ordinance as it stands. Of course, they may have filled in the blanks by Wednesday.

Ask for

The first blank:  95%

Second blank: providing bus service through KCATA.

This would keep the ordinance basically as it is.

ORDINANCE NO. 130173

Amending Chapter 68, Article VII, Code of Ordinances of Kansas City, Missouri entitled “Sales Taxes,” by repealing Section 68-472.1 and enacting in lieu thereof one new section of like number and subject matter which pertains to the distribution of the transportation tax.

BE IT ORDAINED BY THE COUNCIL OF KANSAS CITY:

Section 1. That Chapter 68, Article VII, Code of Ordinances of Kansas City, Missouri, entitled “Sales Taxes,” is hereby amended by repealing Section 68-472.1, and enacting in lieu thereof one new section to read as follows:

Sec. 68-472.1. Distribution of tax.

After deducting the City’s two percent cost of handling authorized by RSMo 92.418 and fulfilling any Tax Increment Financing obligations, at least __________ percent of the remaining sales tax for transportation imposed by Sec. 68-471 of this article and deposited in the City’s Public Mass Transportation Fund shall be used for ___________________.

See previous post: Public Budget Hearing Saturday Feb 23  Speak Up About the Millions Diverted From KCATA

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