In terms of projected revenue, Platte County
voters likely won't be getting what they were
promised when they approved a 3/8 cent sales tax
for roads in April of 2003.
Sources close to the situation this week confirmed
to The Landmark that projections of road tax revenue
made in 2003 were done in error, and the original
estimated total revenue from the 10-year tax seems
unrealistic. More accurate projections, they say,
indicate funding could total as much as $15 million
less than the estimates fed to voters in 2003.
Information obtained from a variety of sources
indicates that promoters of the sales tax overstated
how many dollars the tax will bring in during
its 10 year lifetime, and also overstated how
many dollars in improvements would be made in
the unincorporated areas of the county.
As a result, there is growing concern by some
county officeholderssecond district commissioner
Jim Plunkett in particularthat many of the
rural road projects that had been promised will
not be able to be delivered due to lack of funding
unless changes are made to the roads master plan.
Voters approved the tax, with a 10-year sunset
clause, by a margin of 58% to 42%. The Platte
County Commission at the time promoted the tax
by using figures that estimated total road tax
revenue over the 10 year lifetime at more than
$66 million. Paperwork circulated at the time
indicated an estimated annual sales tax growth
rate of 5% was used to come up with that figure,
which now officials are saying is not the case.
In addition, campaign materials indicated that
the revenue would be equally split among cities
and unincorporated portions of the county, with
nearly $33 million going to cities and another
$33 being earmarked for rural areas.
Neither the total estimated tax revenue, nor
the total earmarked for rural areas, appears to
be correct, Jim Plunkett, newly-elected second
district county commissioner, confirmed this week.
Using annual estimated growth of 5%, information
prepared by George K. Baum, investment banking
firm employed by Platte County, indicates total
road tax revenue after 10 years would be around
$50 million, about $15-16 million short of what
was projected during the sales tax election campaign.
In addition, in news releases and advertisements
promoting the sales tax issue, 23 line items of
rural road projects were listed, with an estimated
cost amount for each also given. A "total"
line at the bottom indicated the rural projects
would add up to $32,823,970, but in reality the
23 line items only added up to $22,877,672.
It was a discrepancy that, for whatever reason,
apparently went unnoticed by all parties involved.
So the rural areas, Plunkett points out, were
only originally allocated $22 million, not the
nearly $33 million promoters of the tax promised.
Plunkett this week indicated since the intent
was for rural roads to get half of the total estimated
revenue, he will work to see that rural areas
end up getting 50% of the revenue.
If the total tax brings in around $50 million,
Plunkett says he'll attempt to garner $25 million
of that for rural projects. That's still $3 million
more than what was actually listed on campaign
flyers detailing planned unincorporated projects.
Greg Bricker, senior vice president with George
K. Baum, says he doesn't know where the estimated
$66 million total originated. Bricker told The
Landmark this week he sees the $66 million as
an unrealistic goal. Bricker came on board after
the road tax issue had already been passed by
"The first place I saw that number was in
a report produced for the county by the consulting
engineering firm (HNTB). I don't know whether
HNTB created that number or some other party provided
the number to HNTB to be included in their report,"
Bricker told The Landmark this week.
Platte County Presiding Commissioner Betty Knight,
the only current member of the commission who
was in office during the road sales tax campaign,
also is unsure how the projected $66 million revenue
figure came to be.
"Frankly, I wasn't in on a lot of those
discussions on those numbers," she said.
Steve Wegner, former second district commissioner
defeated by Plunkett last year, spearheaded the
road sales tax issue for the commission. Wegner
did not return phone calls seeking comment on
how original projections were made.
Knight said in researching the topic in the commission
office, she believes officials used an estimated
growth rate of 8% to come up with the $66 million
number. The projection would have been generated
beginning with 2001 and 2002 general sales tax
revenues, she believes.
She said another reason for the inflated figure
is that officials did not account for tax increment
financing (TIF) revenue which has to be subtracted
from the general sales tax revenue.
"I can't find what number they started with
(in making their annual sales tax projections),
and it's essential to figure out where to start.
They didn't take out the TIF money and that has
inflated a lot of revenue that isn't there to
spend on these road projects," Knight told
Aaron Schmidt, Platte County Planning and Zoning
director, admits that a lot of the revenue projections
were done "in house."
Plunkett points out that in order for the tax
to bring in the $66 million originally promised,
annual sales tax growth would have to be 11%,
a very aggressive number. Bricker, the investment
banker, agreed with Plunkett that the 11% growth
rate seems unrealistic.
Knight, like Plunkett, says she wants to ensure
unincorporated areas receive their 50% allotment
of total revenue as promised.
"I am committed to keeping the word as far
as incorporated and unincorporated being split
50-50," Knight said Tuesday.
"Everyone thought that they were going to
get something out of these projects. You have
to keep your word (to voters) or you're never
going to be able to go back and get another tax
issue passed," she remarked.
Information obtained from the planning and zoning
office indicates thus far about $11.2 million
of road sales tax revenue has either been spent
or is under construction contract for the period
of time 2003 to 2005 for road improvements in
the city of Kansas City. That includes $6 million
for Congress North, $2.5 million for Congress
South, $2 million for Barry Road Phase I, and
$700,000 for Green Hills.
Roads master plan unincorporated projects under
construction contract or planned for construction
between 2003 and 2005 total about $1 million.
This includes Duncan Road Bridge at $200,000 and
Jones Myer Phase I at $800,000.
Plunkett and Schmidt both said the revelation
that total income over 10 years could be $15 million
less than originally projected will mean some
master plan adjustments will have to be made.
Some of the road and bridge projects promised
during the road sales tax campaign may not happen.
"It will become a policy decision by the
county commission to adjust the scheduled projects,"
According to a spread sheet obtained from the
county planning and zoning office, some of the
proposed unincorporated improvements that appear
to lack funding in the latest project summary
include the following rural bridge projects: Bee
Creek Blvd., Cogan Road, Settles Station Road
Bridge, Clark Ave., Dye Store Road North Bridge,
Brown Road, Dye Store Road Middle Bridge, Hardesty
Lane, Jowler Road Bridge, North County Line Road
Bridge, County Line South Bridge, Dye Store Road
South Bridge, North Bluff Road Bridge, Kirk's
Bottom Road Bridge, and Old N Hwy. Bridge.
The whole situation leaves Plunkett, the officeholder
who represents much of the unincorporated area
of the county, very frustrated.
"I don't know how I can carry out a program
that is flawed. What we need to do is correct
everything so that we can forward with good projections,"