A key plank in Mayor Mark Funkhouser’s “Schools First” initiative — spending $100 million to improve sidewalks and infrastructure around schools in Kansas City — suffered a serious blow this morning.
The ordinance that would have placed the bond issue before voters in August died when no one offered a motion in the city council’s Transportation and Infrastructure committee.
Several community members, including a school superintendent and a school principal and Funkhouser, testified in favor of the measure. Then Terry Riley, the committee’s chair, asked for a recommendation from committee members Jan Marcason, Cathy Jolly, Melba Curls and Bill Skaggs.
Then Riley asked for a motion.
Riley was instructed by an assistant city attorney to hold the ordinance in committee if no one was willing to move for its consideration and a vote.
Funkhouser, who had touted the initiative’s broad support and negligible fiscal impact, left the meeting quickly.
The mayor had proposed that the $100 million in bonds, if approved by voters, would be issued in four $25 million allotments. In 2011-12 budget, the city would need to find only $2 million to service the debt of the first bonds issued for the infrastructure improvements.
Funkhouser has expended a lot of time recently advocating for the School First plan. Besides infrastructure improvements, it also would use a public safety sales tax to pay for increased police presence in and around schools.
But the lack of a vote in committee on raised doubts about whether he’ll be able to get his plan approved.
“I’m disappointed,” Funkhouser said. “My plan is to pause and think and come back. I never quit.”
Funkhouser had said before the committee vote that the Missouri General Assembly had passed legislation that would allow a city public safety sales tax, currently restricted only to capital improvements, to be used for personnel costs.
But the legislation passed didn’t contain an emergency provision that Funkhouser wanted and would have allowed the city to place the sales tax before voters in August.
Now, that may have to wait until February.
Jolly said after the committee meeting that she was concerned about the city’s fiscal situation, especially the potential loss of revenue by an upcoming state-wide vote of the city’s earnings tax.
“The city is dealing with a multitude of things right now,” Jolly said.
Riley said he had heard concerns about debt and the loss of revenue. He said Funkhouser could introduce his ordinance from the floor during the council’s legislative meeting. But that would require nine votes.
“That would be extremely difficult,” Riley said. “It would have been better to get it through here.”
Other options will be examined by the mayor’s office. If he finds a second council member to support the measure, he may be able to bring it back before Riley’s committee.