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Starting July 1, some Kansas City residents will begin paying a new tax. Its purpose? To fund the expansion of the KC Streetcar.
The expansion will bring the streetcars down Main Street to the Country Club Plaza and continuing on Brookside Boulevard to the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Currently, streetcars only run from Union Station to the River Market. Construction has already begun along Main Street, which is dotted with traffic cones and heavy equipment.
The Kansas City Beacon gathered information from the Main Street Rail Transportation Development District to answer some commonly asked questions about the expansion, the tax and the special assessment.
1. What is a transportation development district?
Put simply, it’s a special district whose boundaries are approved by voters. That means that with voter approval, it can impose taxes and special assessments on the people and buildings inside of the TDD. It’s designed to generate revenue.
2. OK, what does a TDD have to do with the KC Streetcar expansion?
The Main Street Rail TDD was created to help fund the expansion of the KC Streetcar route. The directors of the Main Street Rail TDD are Jan Marcason, Ruben Alonso, Crissy Dastrup, Jeff Krum, David Johnson, Albert Ray and Zac Sweets.
It replaces an older TDD, which started in 2013, called the Starter Line TDD. The Starter Line will begin to phase itself out as the Main Street Rail TDD takes over taxation and special assessment of the area.
If you’ve lived within the boundaries of the Starter Line TDD since 2013 or later, you’ve been paying a 1% sales tax that goes toward the KC Streetcar; after June 30, the Main Street Rail TDD will collect that 1% sales tax.
3. How can I tell if I’m within the tax and assessment area?
The Main Street Rail TDD and KC Streetcar have prepared a color-coded map to show which areas will be impacted by the tax and special assessments. You can view that here. Some people were erroneously sent mail that indicated they were subject to special assessments — unless you live in the yellow and green areas of the map, you won’t be paying a special assessment.
Jan Marcason, chair of the Main Street Rail TDD, said they’re also planning to make a bigger map and hang it inside Midtown KC Now so that people will be able to clearly see where the areas stop and start.
“It is a little hard to see the streets exactly, and sometimes the boundary goes in the middle of a street, so one side of the street is in the boundary and the other is not,” she said.
4. Got it. What will I be paying?
Most purchases made within the Main Street Rail TDD will include a 1% sales tax for the next 25 years. This includes meals, retail and grocery sales.
If you own a home or other building, you’ll also be responsible for paying a special assessment. You can input your property value into this assessment calculator to see the amount you’ll owe.
Property values in Kansas City are reassessed every two years, which means what you’re paying in the special assessment could go up or down throughout the 25-year period.
5. What purchases are exempt from the sales tax?
State regulations exempt certain big-ticket items, including boats, cars, trailers and outboard motors.
6. How much is the expansion costing taxpayers?
While the project will cost around $351 million, half of that is being covered by a grant from the federal government. The remainder will be paid for through the new tax and special assessments.
7. Will construction impact my commute?
If you live within the expansion district, chances are high you’ll have to deal with some construction-related traffic. Updates on construction are sent out weekly in the Upgrades on Main newsletter to help avoid any surprises when it comes to road closures.
KC Water has also provided a project area map, which uses various icons to indicate the type of work being done, traffic impact and pedestrian detours. A star icon highlights a local business each week along the construction route.
8. When will the KC Streetcar extension be complete?
While the expansion should be finished by 2024, it likely won’t be up and running until 2025. That’s because before the new route opens up to the public, it’ll need to be tested to ensure it’s operating safely. Marcason said the federal government has strict guidelines on the number of testing hours the expansion must have undergone before opening to the public.
“Frankly, the biggest question we get is when it’s going to be done,” she said. “‘When can we ride the streetcar to UMKC?’ People are just salivating over being able to ride it from UMKC down to the River Market, and down to Berkley Riverfront Park.”