In addition to voting on national and local government officials on Nov. 3, Manhattan residents will vote on a sales tax continuance.
City manager Ron Fehr said the sales tax — if it passes — will help pay for economic development, infrastructure and property tax relief.
“The Riley County sales tax basically provides a little over $3 billion a year for the city,” Fehr said.
The sales tax on the ballot, however, only applies to the city of Manhattan. This includes the portion of Manhattan in Pottawatomie County.
“One of the main reasons that the city would like to have a citywide sales tax is because we’re leaving part of city of Manhattan out at the Pottawatomie County line,” Fehr said. “Which is a big retail participant. So, it will generate significantly more revenue.”
The sales tax would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023 — the day after the current sales tax is set to expire.
In 2018, Fehr said a 0.3 percent increase to the sales tax was voted on, but failed. He emphasized that this 0.5 percent continuance keeps the sales tax in the Riley County portion of Manhattan level at 8.95 percent, but in Pottawatomie County, it will increase to 9.45 percent.
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The city estimates the sales tax will generate $6.5 million each year from 2023 to 2033.
Additionally, if the sales tax passes, the city can begin using current funds to help with COVID-19 relief. Fehr said this is because funds expected to be generated by the sales tax in 2021 and 2022 are already pledged to “debt service and infrastructure projects.”
“That really isn’t available to be able to utilize for other initiatives,” Fehr said. “So by redoing it now, the revenue that comes in after 2023 will replace those pledges to free up that money for immediate availability in the community to target anything we need for recovery or other initiatives that the community feels will be important.”
The Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce endorses the sales tax, chamber president and CEO Jason Smith said.
“I think we’re extremely concerned about what we have seen over the last several years in terms of stagnation of job growth and also the inability to retain and attract professionals to the community,” Smith said. “We realized about three years ago … we went through a community strategic planning process, and there were a number of activities that were outlined as part of that. So we understand and have supported, historically, the importance of economic development.”
Fehr said a part of economic development is keeping graduates from Kansas State, Manhattan Area Technical College and other higher education opportunities in the Manhattan area.
Also, the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility will add approximately 200 jobs to Manhattan. As such, the city needs more affordable housing.
“We’re very optimistic that these funds can be used in a manner that keeps the community attractive to young professionals and helps retain and attract jobs,” Smith said. “We’ve used economic development funds in the past for projects like NBAF, which is going to be a huge asset to the community.”
Fehr said the funds earned through the sales tax could also be used for the North Campus Corridor project and fitting major roadways with sidewalks or bike lanes to accommodate travel.
Manhattan attracts many visitors, which is why sales tax was chosen over a property tax.
“One of the reasons we’ve targeted sales tax is that we’re a regional community,” Fehr said. “So our pull factor is about 25 percent of the sales tax rate comes from outside the city.”
More information about the sales tax can be found on the Manhattan website.