KC firefighters union drops $200,000 in effort to renew fire department sales tax

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One of the biggest single expenditures for the crowded August 5 ballot arrived on Friday from the International Association of Fire Fighters Local No. 42, which wants the city to continue the quarter-cent sales tax supporting the Kansas City Fire Department.

The union that represents Kansas City fire personnel sent a $200,000 check to KC Citizens for Safety, the campaign committee supporting the renewal of the sales tax. The key word is renewal; approval of the tax wouldn't add to local sales-tax rates like the August vote on statewide transportation projects and the November vote on the Kansas City streetcar extension. (Approving the November sales-tax increase for the streetcar would increase sales-tax rates in a large area south of the Missouri River but not in downtown Kansas City.)

IAFF Local No. 42 has traditionally been one of the most influential forces at City Hall. In times of austerity, the Kansas City Fire Department has been relatively less afected by staff and budget cuts compared with other municipal departments.

The City Council in May approved a measure to put the continuation for another 20 years of the quarter-cent fire sales tax before voters, even though the current tax doesn't expire until 2016. The KCFD used the tax, originally passed in 2002, to build new fire stations and upgrade others. They want to continue the tax in order to upgrade firetrucks and keep staff positions.

The fire sales tax renewal fell on the August 5 ballot before anyone knew that Gov. Jay Nixon would drop the three-quarter-cent sales-tax increase for statewide transportation projects (mostly roads and bridges) on the same, suddenly long-winded ballot.

Speaking of which, check out this sample ballot for the August 5 election just for issues (not counting candidate primaries). The streetcar question alone is seven pages.

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