Downtown streetcar plan will cost some Kansas City churches thousands in taxes

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The new downtown streetcar line could cost some Kansas City churches thousands of dollars each year in new taxes.

Just weeks before construction begins on the streetcar, the faith-based organizations within the boundaries of the downtown Transportation Development District don't know exactly how much they will be paying. But the latest estimates tell them it will be a significant amount.

While the churches don't pay property taxes, their property will be appraised to determine how much the streetcar line will cost them. For St. Mary's Episcopal Church at 13th and Holmes, one of the oldest churches in the city, that cost is estimated to be an extra $4,000 per year.

"It is going to be a struggle for us," said Rev. Lauren Lyon. "We are a congregation of people of modest means."

The church is home to programs that provide hot lunches and groceries to the poor. The extra fees to fund the streetcar line, which will run from Crown Center to the River Market, have Lyon worrying how the church will meet all its obligations.

"This is something we have no control over, and we had no control over the decision to adopt the streetcar tax," she said.

Danny Rotert, director of communications for Mayor Sly James, said churches aren't the only ones having to adjust. He pointed out that city buildings are not usually charged for property tax either, but they will now pay streetcar taxes of $800,000 per year.

"This is a community effort, and we're all a part of it," Rotert said. "That's businesses, that's residents and that's some of our downtown churches."

Everyone in the district will be paying $.40 for every $100 of value assessed. Nonprofit organizations, including churches, won't pay on the first $300,000 of assessed value. That would save many small organizations from any cost at all.

But buildings like Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, which is worth more than $3 million, will pay more than $10,000 per year. The Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph owns several million dollars worth of buildings downtown. Their cathedral with the trademark gold dome will cost them $5,000 per year to fund the streetcar line.

Even though St. Mary's won't have to pay that much, they aren't looking forward to trying to trim their budget.

"We've trimmed our budget down as far as we can make it go," Lyon explained.

Property owners, including churches, won't know exactly how much they'll pay until assessments are completed by the end of the year.

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