While Wichita asks for new taxes, it continues to spend and borrow

The City of Wichita says it doesn’t have enough revenue for things like street maintenance and transit, but continues to borrow for spending on new projects.

The City of Wichita is asking voters to approve a sales tax of one cent per dollar. Part will be used to bolster areas of spending where the city admits not spending enough: Street maintenance and transit. (These shortfalls are based on the city’s goals.)

The city says it does not have enough revenue to pay for these items. But voters need to know that the city continues to spend on new things. In fact, it borrows quite a bit to finance new things.

As an example, last month the city issued $368 million in bonded debt. Part — about half — was to refinance short-term bonds. The other half was new debt.

Here’s something listed as what the city paid for with part of the bond proceeds: “Douglas and Hillside Redevelopment, $3,685,000.00.” The new intersection is nice, although the previous version wasn’t bad.

To relate this to the proposed sales tax Of the funds the sales tax is projected to raise over five years, $27.8 million is allocated for street maintenance and repairs. That’s $5.6 million per year to be spent in addition to what the city has already planned to spend.

So to reconstruct just one intersection, the city spent two-thirds of the dedicated portion of the sales tax for streets.

WaterWalk Place in downtown Wichita, September 30, 2014
WaterWalk Place in downtown Wichita, September 30, 2014
Here’s what voters need to keep in mind. The city claims it doesn’t have enough revenue to pay for the upkeep of streets — the streets that taxpayers have already paid for. But the city borrows money for new projects like this and many others. Then, the city tells us it doesn’t have enough money to maintain what we already have, and voters need to pass a sales tax.

By the way, how do you feel about the progress of the WaterWalk development in downtown? There’s not much going on there. Here’s how much the city borrowed to spend on that project, according to the bond documents: “WaterWalk – Eastbank Development, $7,145,000.00”

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