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Water top priority in new Wichita survey

By Anne Meyer, ameyer@kwch.com
Published On: Feb 24 2014 09:24:41 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 24 2014 10:11:38 PM CST

The City of Wichita asked, and you answered. Now the results of a year long survey are back and it could lead to changes in how tax dollars are spent. It could also mean higher taxes.

Last year, Wichita City Leaders spent tens of thousands of dollars on a major public service campaign, complete with a mailed out survey to 25,000 residents and more than 100 community meetings.

Thousands took part. Their number one concern, create a reliable source of water for Wichita's future. Folks we talked to agree.

"I don't have a well in my back yard so I don't have access to water unless I pay through the city," said Wichitan Paige Atkins. "So obviously something had to be worked out."

"We are only going to have so much water as it is," said Wichitan David Huntington. "I believe that is a major issue there in the future."
Right now Wichita gets its water supply from Cheney Lake. Finding new sources won't come cheap.

The City has put millions into an aquifer project that would pull water from the Little Arkansas river and store it for future use. But city leaders say it will cost $300-500 million to complete that project.

The cheapest option would be to treat water from the sewage plant, at a price tag of about $150 million.

Others want to get water from El Dorado Lake. That idea would cost up to $150-million to build the pipe, plus more money to pay for the water itself.

According to the new survey, the majority of those polled would be willing to pay more taxes to afford these types of projects. 58% suggested a sales tax hike, 23% chose higher property taxes.
"Probably property tax over sales tax," said Wichitan Geneva Hershberger. "Because sales tax includes everybody, including the people who already don't have enough anyway."

"I don't think that raising taxes is the answer, Kansas taxes right now are so high," Huntington said.

Other priorities from the survey results include investing in job creation, improving street maintenance and creating a cultural arts center in Wichita.

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