Transit Action Network (TAN)

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

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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