by Debbie Coleman-Topi
Riverside city officials foresee a brighter future for the city's downtown district due to a new sales tax program that could have wide-reaching affects.
The city’s board of aldermen Tuesday night unanimously approved the creation of the Riverside Gateway Crossing Community Improvement District (CID), which intends to generate funds by adding a one percent sales tax to patrons' purchases throughout the district beginning in 2017.
Under the formula, Riverside's sales tax will climb from its present 6.6 percent to 7.6 percent beginning in January and is expected to generate about $125,000 per year, Jackie Carlson of the Riverside Planning and Businesses Services Department told the board during the meeting.
Even with the increase, Riverside's sales tax will still be one of the lowest in the area, officials said, remaining lower than places such as Liberty, which has a 7.7 percent rate, Carlson said.
The 48-acre taxing district includes 29 parcels of land with 19 different owners and a total assessed valuation of $2.6 million. The area is located near the intersection of Gateway Avenue and Vivion Road from 47th Terrace on the North to Line Creek on the South and Karen Street to the East to High Drive on the West.
Riverside joins the nearby cities of Kansas City and Parkville in adopting the taxing formula in which generated money can be used in a variety of ways as long as all projects benefit the entire district. Possible projects range from establishing new services to improvements for already-existing amenities and even include the creation of new facilities.
At the meeting, Carlson delivered a Power Point presentation that included a map of the area, detailing the benefits of the program. Alderman Aaron Thatcher said the city is “excited to get started and look at those opportunities.” Mayor Kathy Rose added. “We look forward to making this work.”
Carlson said city officials have long been considering a program that would benefit businesses, especially since residents had listed business district improvements as a priority on citizen surveys.
In addition, residents indicated they are interested in creating a “walkable” downtown in which businesses are clustered in close proximity.
Carlson said funds will accumulate slowly and will “take a long time to accomplish, but, we have to start somewhere.”
She pointed to the program's popularity among businesses, explaining that nearly 80 percent of downtown businesses signed a petition in favor of the CID, although state law mandates that only 50 percent of businesses in the district approve of the plan.
A five-member board of directors, mostly comprised of representatives/owners of downtown businesses, were recommended by Mayor Kathy Rose and approved by the board of aldermen.
The CID board will guide the district and has the authority to place proceeds in reserve funds earmarked for certain projects, Carlson said.
The CID initially was established for a 40-year term but the longevity ultimately will be determined by the board, Carlson said.
CID board members are: Riverside Alderman Aaron Thatcher; Jason Rule, Corner Café; Ed Bradley, BankLiberty; Jeff Hargett, QuikTrip; and George “Skip” Clinton with River Roll (roller skating rink).
The board is scheduled to meet for the first time this week and will conduct “housekeeping tasks” such as appointing officers, she said.
Members also will disseminate paper ballots to all businesses in the taxing district seeking approval for a citywide election approving the higher sales tax. That election will take place Tuesday, Aug. 30.
Carlson said some of the CID's popularity hinges on its “grass-roots effort.” Area business owners were the ones who professed the taxing district's benefits to other businesses and obtained necessary signatures on a petition, which began the entire process.
“It's a lot different when somebody from a business next door comes to talk with you rather than the city,” Carlson said.