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Pre-K funding tax to be on November ballot in KC

Posted: 6:21 PM, Jul 19, 2018
Updated: 2018-07-19 19:21:40-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. If you live in Kansas City, Missouri, you already pay about 8.6 percent in combined state, county and city taxes.

That rate could go up in November, when voters will decide on a new tax to fund pre-K education. 

Zach Sudbury has spent the summer chasing his 4-year-old and 6-year-old, but their future and education was on his mind Thursday.

“If you can afford to have your kids in a pre-K, it gets them off to a better start,” Sudbury said. 

Both of his children have pre-K education, but he said it would not have happened if he didn’t have financial assistance. 

Kansas City voters will decide whether to pass a 3/8-cent sales tax on the November ballot, which would generate $30 million annually for pre-K assistance. 

‘Right now, 35 percent of kids have quality pre-K education options available and 40 percent of the zip codes in this city are pre-K deserts," Kansas City Mayor Sly James said. "We need to change that dynamic."

James backs the tax. He said early education is the key to reducing crime and poverty, and the tax would provide assistance for parents who enroll their children in private or public schools. 

“We are talking about quality pre-K programs that have an approved curriculum where kids are actually being taught things and getting ready for kindergarten," James said.

Sudbury is for education, but he isn't sure a tax is the right answer. 

“Sales taxes are already pretty high, so I have trouble saying yes on that,” Sudbury said.

Kansas City Councilman Quinton Lucas also has reservations.

“3/8-cent sales tax is significant,"' Lucas said. "We are heavily taxed in Kansas City as it is, and we know sales taxes are really felt by some of the poorest folks in the community."

If you live in Kansas City, Missouri, you pay a 4-percent state tax, a 1-percent county tax and a 3-percent city tax.

But James said it's more than an extra tax. 

“It is not a tax; it's an investment," he said. "You can't build quality people and not build a quality foundation."

Lucas hopes a different option could be agreed on before November. 

“One thing we can look at is a property tax," he said. "That is how we fund public education. Are there other city funds that we are not using? Maybe 3/8 is too much, what about a 1/4 cents, 1/8 cents."