Maintaining a competitive sales tax advantage with a ¼-cent increase

In a recent City Council meeting, staff outlined options available for issuing bonds to build a new Community Center – if that is how the public decides to resolve the serious issues with current recreation facilities.

City Administrator Chris Engel followed up with a presentation to Council on March 27, which demonstrated that if bonds issued to fund a new community center are paid for with a new ¼-cent sales tax, the City will continue to maintain a competitive advantage in the retail marketplace. Essentially, he answered the question, “Will increasing the sales tax rate deter consumers and residents from making purchases in Merriam?”

One way to answer this question is by comparing Merriam’s sales tax rate with those of other Johnson County cities, plus neighboring Kansas City, Kansas. As of April 1, 2017, Merriam’s city sales tax rate is 9.225%. If you look at city sales tax rates from other neighboring cities and compare them, Merriam is right in the middle (see below). With the addition of a new ¼-cent city sales tax, the rate would rise to 9.480 – still lower than rates in nearby Shawnee, Fairway and Mission.

Sales Tax Capacity CE 32717 presentation

However, many retail centers in the cities with lower city sales tax rates than Merriam charge an extra sales tax at the point-of-sale (POS) — where you actually buy goods and services (hardware store, car dealership, barber shop, etc.). This additional sales tax is usually the result of a CID or TDD, tools used by cities to encourage economic development or fund transportation infrastructure projects.

A CID, or community improvement district, allows retail developments to charge an additional sales tax for a variety of site improvements. A TDD, or transportation development district, is similar to the CID except that the funds from the sales tax increase can only be used on streets and curbs.

For example, Olathe’s slightly lower city sales tax rate is 9.475%, but the consumer must also consider the many CID and TDD retail districts with additional sales taxes that increase rates paid at the point-of-sale (POS) from 10.475% up to 11.475%. Areas of Olathe that charge these sales tax rates include those located in the I-35 and 119th St. area; and the I-35 and 135th St. area. So, despite a lower city sales tax rate, many shopping destinations in Olathe actually charge a higher sales tax rate than Merriam.

Kansas City, Kansas’ sales tax rate is 9.375%. If shopping at the Legends, any place around the race track, and 39th and Rainbow, the rates increase to a range of 9.475% to 11.375% due to the TDD and CID taxes in those areas. These rates are all still higher than Merriam.

The same goes for Roeland Park and Lenexa. Roeland Park’s sales tax rate is 9.225%, but off Roe Avenue, the Lowe’s, Wal-Mart and Price Chopper shopping areas have sales tax rates between 9.72% to 10.225%, as many of these add CID and TDD sales taxes at the POS.

Lenexa’s sales tax rate for areas around Oak Park Mall, 87th and Renner, 87th and Rosehill, and 95th and Quivira all have sales tax rates of 10.350%, due to CID taxes. This is higher than the city rate of 9.35%.

While Overland Park has a comparatively low city sales tax rate of 9.10%, many of their shopping areas, including the 95th St. corridor, the 135th St. corridor, and the 119th St. corridor have rates of 10.10%. The 91st and Metcalf area, which has a CID tax for two car dealerships, also charges a 10.10% tax rate – higher than sales tax charged at any of Merriam’s car dealerships.

Leawood’s city sales tax rate is 9.100%, but prime retail centers at 119th and Roe, 119th and Nall and Town Center Plaza all have CD and TDD taxes, bringing sales tax up to 10.100%.

Prairie Village has two main shopping areas – The Village and Corinth Square. The city sales tax rates in these two shopping areas is 9.975% due to their CID tax, while all other retail areas of town have a 8.975% sales tax rate.

Merriam currently does not have any CID or TDD areas. If voters approved an additional ¼-cent tax to pay for new recreational facilities, consumers would only pay a 9.480% sales tax rate. When looking at city sales tax rates, then taking additional CID and TDD taxes into consideration, this is lower than nearly every comparable retail development in Johnson County cities.

In conclusion, Engel reported that an additional ¼-cent sales tax would NOT put Merriam at a competitive disadvantage with neighbor cities. He further commented that staff would not recommend a sales tax increase if they believed it would harm the City, its residents, or its strong retail economy.

“Most people who pay Merriam’s sales tax come from outside our community. Last thing we want is to have a sales tax increase that gives us a competitive disadvantage,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how strong our sales tax base is if we scare off all the people who come here to spend their hard-earned money; or the people who live here that spend their hard-earned money on the things that we offer in our community.”

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