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City Hall Routes Streetcar Tax Assessment Down Wrong Track

Thousands receive erroneous assessment notifications

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Above image credit: Rendering of streetcars on Main Street. (Courtesy | HDR)

The streetcar financial board plan to inform property owners about the upcoming special tax assessment for the Main Street expansion was derailed recently when thousands of additional letters were mailed in error due to a City Hall screwup.

The board wanted to inform property owners who’ll pay the special assessment within the so-called yellow zone inside the larger Transportation Development District, but instead letters went out to the entire TDD.

As a result, thousands of property owners outside the yellow zone who believed they wouldn’t be assessed were notified mistakenly their taxes would be going up hundreds of dollars.

“I don’t know who dropped the ball, but the (City) Finance Department prepared the mailing list,” said Jan Marcason, chairwoman of the Main Street TDD board.

“We were as shocked as anybody.”

A one-cent sales tax, the other part of the local funding for the $350 million streetcar expansion, goes into effect July 1 on sales within the entire TDD. Its boundaries go approximately west to State Line Road, east to Campbell Street and south to 53rd Street.

The Transportation Development District established to raise local revenues for the Main Street extension includes the areas in green and yellow where a special property tax assessment will be levied. An additional one-cent sales tax for the entire TDD goes into effect July 1.
The Transportation Development District established to raise local revenues for the Main Street extension includes the areas in green and yellow where a special property tax assessment will be levied. An additional one-cent sales tax for the entire TDD goes into effect July 1. (Map | Kansas City Streetcar Authority)

The special assessment mailings began appearing in peoples’ mailboxes last weekend. Surprised recipients quickly jumped on board social media with their complaints.

Nextdoor had more almost 140 comments by Tuesday.

“What a bunch of incompetent buffoons,” one person posted. “I guarantee you they will tax the people that do not protest.”

Added another, “I’m a mile away from the nearest stop can’t walk that far voted against it to begin with.”

The mistaken mailing also has given the Streetcar Authority a bumpy publicity ride. The agency posted an apology on its website.

“We’ve been fielding a lot of calls and it hasn’t been pleasant,” said Donna Mandelbaum, communications director for the streetcar. “We had nothing to do with it.”

Maggie Green, a spokeswoman for the city, quickly agreed the error came from City Hall.

“We acknowledge there was a mess-up with the mailing list,” she said. “We’re looking into what it was and then we’ll be sending out proper notifications.

“We apologize for the inconvenience and confusion.”

Marcason said the board requested the mailing to be proactive informing people about the upcoming special assessment which goes into effect on their next property tax bill.

“We wanted to make sure everyone is aware,” she said. “Somehow, the mailing service sent it to the entire TDD area.”

Flatland contributor Kevin Collison is the founder of CityScene KC, an online source for downtown news and issues.

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