Battle heats up over Swope Park youth soccer plan
The Kansas City Star
The idea of using millions of dollars of Raytown School District tax funds to expand a youth soccer complex in Swope Park should be pulled off the table immediately by Kansas City officials.
Unfortunately, that’s not likely at this point, given the hard lines that everyone seems to be taking on a case involving how to spend some current and future revenue from a tax increment financing district in Kansas City.
(Here’s a Star editorial with more background on this issue.)
Consider the Brookside Soccer Club. It’s trying to put pressure on Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders to support the plan, calling on parents to call Sanders. So far, Sanders is not budging; the county has voted in support of Raytown and against the soccer project so far.
Then there’s Sporting Kansas City which - so far - continues to embrace the idea of expanding a facility near its home practice field in Swope Park. That could become a controversial stance, especially if it appears Sporting KC is just fine with taking money from the school district for what should be more of a public/private deal.
At City Hall, City Council member Cindy Circo is the lead proponent of diverting school tax dollars from Raytown for the soccer fields - even though the project isn’t even in the district’s boundary lines. That’s absurd (and illegal, Raytown school officials claim) because it means money from Raytown patrons will be spent in the Kansas City Public Schools district.
Finally, Raytown officials correctly are taking a hard line by saying they want the $4 million that has accumulated in the TIF plan - and want the $1 million a year they are supposed to get from the current businesses in the Winchester TIF, now that this part of the project has been completed.
One big problem with resolving this mess is that Kansas City - because of state law - seems to have the upper hand in passing the youth soccer project. The city has the majority of votes on the Tax Increment Financing Commission. And, if the panel approves the project, the City Council - not the Raytown School Board - makes the final decision on how to spend millions in school district funds.
This dispute is one of those clear cases where ordinary people would take one look at it and go - of course this makes no sense: Let Raytown schools have the money and make the city find a good way to pay for a soccer complex within its own borders.
But battle lines have hardened and compromises are being sought, even when no truly good one aopears to be on the horizon.