Merriam starting talks to consider renewing 1/4-cent sales tax for street and stormwater projects

Merriam city leaders will begin discussions this month on possibly renewing a quarter-cent sales tax that funds street and stormwater projects.

The city of Merriam is taking first steps to discuss the option to renew a sales tax that funds street and stormwater improvement projects.

A 10-year 1/4-cent sales tax to fund street and stormwater projects has been in effect since January 1, 2011 and sunsets Dec. 31, 2020. The council must decide if it will place renewal of the tax on a mail-in ballot in a spring 2020 election.

The Merriam council agreed on Monday to discuss the possible sales tax renewal in a special work session in August.

Funds generated from the 1/4-cent sales tax can only be used for street and stormwater improvements in the city. City staff reported that the sales tax has generated $14.2 million to date, and projected the tax will generate a total of $17.3 million by the time it sunsets.

“We’ve been able to use that money to help us get grant funding for projects, which has allowed us to do $38 million worth of improvements,” said Assistant City Administrator Meredith Hauck. “That’s been a huge benefit for our residents.”

Hauck added that Merriam has a pull factor of 4.76: About 80 percent of all retail sales come from non-residents. The pull factor is likely high because of the large number of car dealerships being built and upgraded in the city.

“For every dollar of sales tax the city brings in, visitors to our community fund about 80 cents of that,” Hauck said. “So of the $17 million we’ve brought in from this quarter-cent sales tax, our residents have actually paid only about 20 percent of it. That’s one of the reasons we like to look at the option to do sales taxes in Merriam, is because of the benefit of the pull factor.”

Merriam voters in 2000 first approved two five-year 1/8-cent sales taxes — one for streets and stormwater projects and one for downtown infrastructure improvements. In 2005, voters renewed both sales taxes in a combined 5-year 1/4-cent sales tax for streets and stormwater improvements.

Some major projects the sales tax has funded include $3.03 million in improvements to the Shawnee Mission Parkway Bridge over the BNSF railroad tracks, $2.89 million in drainage improvements of Meyer Creek, and $2.58 million in upgrades to 75th Street from East Frontage Road to Switzer Road.

If the city council agrees to move forward with placing a sales tax renewal on a spring 2020 mail-in ballot, city staff would begin distributing information on the sales tax renewal to Merriam residents this September. The city council would then consider renewal language in an October meeting and vote whether to place the renewal on a mail-in ballot in early 2020.

“We’ll need to know the outcome of that election before we start our 2021 budget conversation next spring,” Hauck said.

If the sales tax renewal is approved by voters, the city would begin collection of the renewed sales tax on Jan. 1, 2021.

The Merriam council’s special work session takes place Aug. 26 in the upstairs community training room in city hall, immediately following the council meeting. The work session is open to the public, but public comment is not permitted.