Lawsuit challenges streetcar funding

A lawsuit filed Thursday contends Downtown sales and property taxes to fund the streetcar project are illegal.

The action filed by two Downtown property owners seeks to stop collection of the taxes that fund much of the $100 million system.

The Jackson County Circuit Court lawsuit contends the new taxes improperly deprived Downtown property owners of a vote. It also asserts that such transportation districts allow only up to 1-cent sales tax and one was already in place for the Power and Light district, which is within the streetcar district.

If “stacking” a one-cent tax on top of another one in the same place is allowed, the lawsuit states,  “the statutory limit has no meaning at all.”

The lawsuit was filed by Sue Anne Burke and Stretch/Jeffrey Rumaner against the Downtown Streetcar Transportation Development District. It is unclear what affect it will have on the sales tax increase set to start collection in April and the property tax due at year’s end.

Last year, a Jackson County judge ruled that state law allowed the planned district and taxes.

Mark Bredemeier, the lawyer who filed the lawsuit Thursday, said, “This raises some serious questions that so far as I can see have not been addressed.”

Besides “stacking,” he said, the process denied property owners a vote on the matter unless they lived in the district.

In the mail-in ballot election, the sales tax passed by a vote of 351 to 198 and the property tax passed by 344 to 206.

Mayor Sly James declined to comment on the lawsuit. Douglas Stone, the attorney who has handled legal matters for the special benefit district, could not be reached for comment.


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