Archive for Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Retailers prepare to collect more tax

3/4-cent levy on sales to pay for new pool goes into effect Oct. 1

September 19, 2007

As construction crews get ready to demolish and build the new Tonganoxie swimming pool, local retailers are getting ready for the new, three-quarters of a percent sales tax needed to pay for the pool to take affect next month.

In April, Tonganoxie voters approved the three-quarters of a percent sales tax, which is expected to raise $3 million during a 10-year period that starts Oct. 1.

Charlie Ussery is happy Tonganoxie residents supported the project, but he knows that he's going to have to find places to cut costs to stay competitive with other area lumberyards when the sales tax goes up.

"I think the pool it was a great idea, but it was not a great time," said Ussery, owner of Himpel Lumber in Tonganoxie. "It's no secret that the lumber business and the housing markets has been off for some time now. When you take another three quarters of a percent from an already-slow market where things are so tight with competition, it's going to make a difference."

To offset some of the business Himpel may lose to competition because of the higher tax rate, Ussery is looking to cut overhead by reducing overtime hours and trying to condense duplicate trips to customers to become more efficient.

Matt Bichelmeyer, owner of Bichelmeyer's Steak House, knows that the extra sales tax will add up to a couple of hundred dollars each month, but he's not too worried about the impact on his business and he's glad to pay extra if it means more improvements for the city.

"As far as I'm concerned I know (taxes) are going to go up for some reason. Our town needed improvements. I do think the city needs a little money to operate. It's one of those deals you take it as it is," Bichelmeyer said.

He said he could look around town and see improvements like sidewalks and road improvements and knows the money was not being abused and was going toward improvement of the city.

Both Ussery and Bichelmeyer agree that while the increased sales tax may hurt some local businesses, a real problem is the dwindling downtown.

"I'm almost to the point where if you think it's going to affect downtown, my response is 'what downtown?'" Ussery said. "Our downtown is in trouble and something like this doesn't help."

Bichelmeyer believes local entrepreneurs and the city need to do their part to bring life back to downtown.

"The population is definitely growing," Bichelmeyer said. "There's more people in the area. Things will be better as long as we can steer them through our downtown."

He believes the vacant buildings downtown shouldn't be looked at as the end of Tonganoxie's downtown but as a possible beginning for a new downtown.

On Sept. 10, Tonganoxie city council approved the contract for the new swimming pool at $2.38 million. Other funds from the sales tax will be spent on improvements to the renovation of Pleasant Street between Second and Third streets.

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