Combat among KC's eco-devo cannibals
The Kansas City Star
This has been a bad week for local taxpayers when it comes to putting them on the hook to support public incentives for private projects.
Locally elected officials desperate for economic development continue to shred the tax bases of their communities and to select specific winners (and losers) when it comes to doling out corporate welfare.
In Mission, developers said they have dropped plans to bring an aquarium and hotel to fill in the big hole along Shawnee Mission Parkway, where the Mission Gateway project was supposed to have broken ground years ago.
So what’s Mission left with at this site?
It hopes to snag a Walmart from a taxpayer-subsidized development a mile away in Roeland Park. In turn, the Mission Gateway developer will be seeking a tax break to benefit the world’s largest retailer and support building more shops and residential units.
Mission Mayor Laura McConwell said Wednesday she was “disappointed” by the big change in development plans, a day after saying, “We didn’t count on the aquarium to begin with.”
But the mayor had been pretty excited about the aquarium as far back as 2008, after she went on a taxpayer-paid trip to check out a similar facility in Guam. It “looked awesome” and “exceeded my expectations,” she said at the time. Now the city will be under heavy pressure to give Mission Gateway whatever it needs to build a Walmart.
Meanwhile, Roeland Park officials face the potential large loss of tax revenues if Walmart leaves. To get something else into its current building, Roeland Park likely will have to hand out even heftier public incentives than now exist at the site.
In Lenexa, the City Council shelled out public funds to get control of properties at the taxpayer-supported — and long-stalled — City Center development.
Lenexa continues to ratchet up the public investment in the project. Even when it moves forward, that’s not always good news for local taxpayers: Lenexa last week announced it planned to use a big tax break to steal Perceptive Software from Shawnee to help bolster City Center’s future.
In Kansas City, local and state taxpayers finally found out the details of how much it’s going to cost them to keep Lockton Cos. on the Country Club Plaza.
Last January, when Lockton announced in would stay, Mayor Sly James had said no city incentives were involved. But press secretary Danny Rotert on Wednesday took the blame for misinforming the mayor, and missing the fact the city plans to waive $400,000 in taxes for the project over 10 years.
Yes, that’s a relatively small amount. Then again, all of these special deals add up. Kansas City loses out on millions of dollars a year in revenues because of previous incentive pacts.
These tax breaks too often unfairly reduce funding for basic services and increase the tax burden on others. But for now, unfortunately, they also seem unstoppable.