Archive for Friday, March 4, 2016

Shawnee approves positions on federal legislation; sales tax and Quiet Zones made priorities

March 4, 2016

The Shawnee City Council approved legislative positions that will be presented to the U.S. Congress and the National League of Cities on issues such as sales tax rights and quiet zone regulations for train horns.

The 2016 federal legislative program, approved unanimously by the council, states that a priority issue facing Shawnee in regard to current economic policy is sales tax regulation on remote purchases made over the Internet or by phone. The city supports federal legislation that would standardize retail sales for the purposes of state and local sales taxation, regardless of whether the sale is conducted in person or by telephone, Internet, mail or other electronic means. And, the city argues, electronic sales tax revenues should be remitted to the state in which the sales originated.

The Streamlined Sales and Use Tax initiative, adopted by Kansas and 43 other states, was meant to standardize this process, but because not every state has accepted the agreement, some sales tax figures are lost.

The law encourages remote sellers selling over the Internet and by mail order to collect tax on sales to customers living in Streamlined states. It contends that it levels the playing field so local "brick-and-mortar" stores and remote sellers operate under the same rules.

The city, in its legislative agenda statement, said that the collection of sales tax on remote sales has been a challenge for many jurisdictions resulting in the loss of sales tax revenues.

Use tax from remote sales trended upward again in 2015 at a significantly higher rate than the low-growth sales tax collected at brick-and-mortar stores, Shawnee argues. Shawnee Assistant City Manager Katie Killen prepared the city’s statement on the matter.

“This likely reflects both the overall increase in remote sales and increase in vendors that have started collecting tax, although there are still vendors that do not,” Killen wrote. “The vendors not collecting sales tax has led to the growing voice from brick-and-mortar retailers on the inequity of the perceived ‘tax free’ online purchases.”

The other priority issue the city identified is Quiet Zones for railroads. Shawnee is requesting federal funding assistance in establishing Quiet Zones and that the Federal Railroad Administration become involved with private crossing issues.

The city argues that train horns are a major quality of life concern in Shawnee. The city has three lines that run through the community with six public crossings and eight private crossings. Between the three lines, about 126 trains go through the city per day. Late last year, the city purchased property and began the process of closing one of the public crossings at 59th Street and Woodland Road.

Shawnee is also working to address both the 73rd Street and Martindale Road crossing and the 75th Street and Martindale Road crossing.

“While the city continues to work on solutions,” the city’s states, “there are costs that may make silencing train horns in the community cost-prohibitive.”

Establishing a Quiet Zone on a public crossing can cost as much as $450,000 with the installation of the necessary safety devices.

With the approval of the federal legislative program, the city has now submitted its positions on key issues to both the state and federal government. The state issues were approved in December.

Community development block grant

Shawnee is also asking that the federal government fully fund the Community Development Block Grant, or CDBG, to cities with populations greater than 50,000 and allow maximum flexibility and local autonomy in using grant funds.

CDBG funding was used in Shawnee to provide assistance to 190 low-income families over the past five years through child care subsidies. Subsistence living payments have been made to 397 residents over the past five years. The city has also been able to leverage city funds with $125,000 in CDBG funds to make improvements to 33 homes under a minor home repair program during the past five years. Besides these direct reimbursements, the city has been able to leverage $620,936 in CDBG funds to make stormwater collection and street and sidewalk improvements on five projects.

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