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Group, city prep for sales tax extension vote on Nov. 2 PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 15 September 2010 10:10

Southwest Medical Center and Epic Touch PCS employees encourage local businesses to decorate their offices as well as educate themselves and their patrons as to the dangers of breast cancer during Think Pink Week, Oct. 10 through 16. The official proclamation of Think Pink Week was made Tuesday evening by Mayor Tim Long during the city commission’s regularly scheduled meeting.  Daily Leader photo/Jessica Crawford


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Most recently, the 1-cent sales tax has funded projects such as Adventure Bay Family Water Park and the improvements on Western Avenue. The tax has been in place for 16 years and it is the hope of the Focus On the Future Committee, as well as Liberal’s City Commission, the tax is extended yet again – to fund further city improvements.
Stan Wilbers of the Focus On the Future Committee addressed the city commission during Tuesday evening’s regular meeting. He presented an overview of how the committee was formed and how the 1-cent sales tax ultimately came about.
“In 1993, the Chamber of Commerce brought a lot of people together to identify needs of our city,” Wilbers said. “Out of that, came the group Focus On the Future. Our responsibility was to go out into the public and get their ideas on what we could do to improve our city. 
“After we presented the ideas to the commission, it was obvious we needed some revenue if we were going to do any of these improvements,” he continued. “So, in June of 1994, the citizens voted to levy a 1 percent city sales tax for a seven-year period. After seven years we took a look at all the things that hadn’t been done – there were still a lot of things that hadn’t been done and also some new ideas. So in 2001, the sales tax was extended for a 10-year period. That period ends in Sept. 2011. We are going to the voters on Nov. 2 to ask for an additional extension to the city sales tax for 10 years, starting Oct. of 2011 through Sept. 20, 2021.”
Wilbers stressed the importance in continuing the tax. He provided statistics regarding funds that will come from individuals living outside of Liberal who chose to shop in Liberal. 
“Thirty to 40 percent of the sales tax is paid by people living outside of Liberal,” he said. “That is due to our economic pull factor. We estimate receiving $35 million over the 10-year period. Thirty five percent of that means $12 million will be paid by people that are living outside of Liberal. If we don’t extend the sales tax, we lose the $12 million.”
Although state and federal funds are often provided for particular projects, Wilbers said some projects were completed solely by using the 1-cent sales tax.
“In the Western Avenue project, no money was received from federal or state agencies, the whole $4.2 million of that was paid out of the sales tax,” he said. “I often wonder if we didn’t have the sales tax, seems to me like you would have to fix the road anyway. So, I looked at your budget, and if you wanted to raise $4.2 million, you would have to raise the mill levy to 38.95 mills. This leaves some idea of the importance of extending this sales tax.”
Ideas have been gathered by the Focus On the Future Committee through various meetings and visits to civic groups throughout Liberal.
“We had five public meetings from May to July,” he said. “We got a lot of input from citizens. To be honest with you, we were somewhat disappointed in the low attendance, but we got a lot of enthusiastic people with a lot of ideas. We also have been going to various civic groups and groups around town promoting the 1 percent sales tax. I think that is the duty of Focus On the Future, to make the public aware of what we have done. We have done a lot of good things and have a lot of work to do. We are requesting their continued support.”
Wilbers said a recreation center topped the list of possible city improvements should the tax be continued following a Nov. 2 election.
“It is not surprising that the recreation center was probably the most requested improvement,” he said. “But, I commend the city commission for taking action on that until we can decide what kind of recreation center we need. It is my understanding that that would go through the vote of the people, possibly in May of next year. 
Wilbers stressed the fact that passing the 1-cent sales tax again will not increase taxes in any way. 
“Citizens should remember, we are not raising their taxes,” he said. “We are going to keep the same amount, that is one penny on the dollar for every dollar spent in Liberal.”
Commissioner Larry Koochel commended Wilbers and the Focus On the Future Committee for their diligence. 
“There have been an enormous amount of things done with this money and it has been not any one group or individual, it has been working together over the years,” he said.
Following Wilbers presentation, he publically thanked Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Rozelle Webb for her work with the Focus On the Future Committee. The two received a round of applause from the audience as well as commissioners and city officials.

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