Kansas City Zoo Sales Tax Implementation (November 2011)

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A Kansas City Zoo Sales Tax Implementation measure was on the November 8, 2011 ballot in the city of Kansas City which is in Clay and Jackson Counties.

This measure sought to implement a dedicated sales tax for the Kansas City zoo at a rate of 1/8 of a cent. The not-for-profit group Friends of the Zoo had sought this measure in order to help pay for additions to the zoo. They had also tried to get a similar issue on the ballot in the counties of Platte and Cass in order to form a regional zoo district. Jackson county officials noted that the group would have to pay for this election, the rate though depended on if there were other issues on the November ballot.[1] Before placing the measure on the ballot, city officials discussed the legality of the proposed measure with a local law firm. A proposal in the ordinance, that another county must also pass the tax for it to be approved in Jackson county, was the issue which raised the legality question. This portion of the proposal was removed for the final ballot measure.[2]

The Clay County Commission decided to place this issue on their November ballot as well, noting that the proposed tax would not be able to exceed 1/8 of a cent. Though the other two counties, Platte and Cass, did not take measures to place this on their ballot, the local group advocating the measure was looking to try to force the counties to place it on their ballots as well. Cass County Commissioners noted that they were having financial difficulties as it is and adding more taxes would not be beneficial to their residents.[3]

Election results

See also: 2011 ballot measure election results and Local ballot measure elections in 2011
Kansas City Zoo Sales Tax Implementation-Clay County
Approveda Yes 11,068 50.94%

Source: Clay County Elections, Current Election Results

Kansas City Zoo Sales Tax Implementation-Jackson County
Approveda Yes 15,869 63.86%

Source: Jackson County Elections, November Election Results


Those in favor of the measure noted that with the creation of the Zoo's own taxing district it would assure the Zoo of a fixed amount of money apart from the municipal budget. The Zoo would be able to make extensions and plan for future projects knowing that they have a certain amount of money coming into the Zoo. Supporters also noted that the additional funds could send the Zoo into the ranks of great national zoos. The Zoo had already promised a Penguin exhibit if the measure was approved as well as additional jobs and possible increases in tourism revenue. Before the vote, the Zoo had raised $600,000 for promoting the measure as well as paying for the election. The measure had to pass in Jackson to be valid, since it passed in both it could raise up to $14.2 million a year. The Zoo will also give discounted admission prices to those residents who live in the district, since the measure was approved.[4]


Though there was no organized opposition to this measure, some residents had noted that while they are not against the Zoo, it was the wrong time to be asking residents for more money.[4]

Cost of Election

The Kansas City Council decided to endorse the plan to pay the $400,000 for their portion of the cost of the election for this measure. Zoo supporters had hoped other measures would be on the ballot so as to spread the cost, but all other proposed measures did not make the ballot. The Zoo will have to pay back that money to the city when they renegotiate their management fee next year. Though Jackson County agreed to place the measure on the ballot, they stated they would not pay for the election.[5] Primary arguments against placing this measure on the ballot from both Platte and Cass County Commissioners was that the cost of the special election would be too high, even though the Zoo had stated it would pay for their portion of the election costs and provide discounted Zoo admission to county residents would approve the tax. Repeated attempts by the Zoo had yielded no results and the issue had been taken to court since valid petitions were submitted to put this measure on their ballots.[6]

Additional reading