Suddenly, strong bid emerges to solve soccer TIF mess
The Kansas City Star
Excellent news: The Raytown School District and Kansas City appear to be working out their differences regarding the controversial Swope Park soccer fields.
Superintendent Allan Markley told me shortly after noon on Wednesday that the district had cancelled a rally scheduled this afternoon.
And here’s part of his letter going out to parents today: “The City of Kansas City has approached the school district in good faith to try to reach a compromise on the Winchester TIF. It is our belief that the emails from patrons and staff and the anticipation of a large crowd at our rally have hurried their interests in reaching a compromise with us and potentially saving millions of dollars for the district.”
The rally would have been used to criticize the way the city has used tax increment financing at the Winchester Center to accumulate millions of school dollars, which the city has said it wanted to use to help build new soccer fields in Swope Park.
Raytown admirably opposed that idea, with the commonsense notion that education money should not be used to build soccer fields on property that is not even within the district’s boundaries.
But by Wednesday, Raytown had backed away from the rally because city officials, led by Mayor Sly James, made a proposal late Tuesday regarding the project.
Markley said Wednesday that he would discuss the offer with board of education members in the coming days.
Essentially, according to both city officials and to school officials, the agreement calls for:
No Raytown School District money from the TIF district to be spent on the soccer fields. Instead, the city and possibly Jackson County would use their funds to build a less-expensive version of the soccer project.
The Raytown money could be used for infrastructure improvements within the Raytown School District boundaries, such as better sidewalks and roads. Markley has said that would be good for the kids who walk to school and ride buses, so this kind of spending would be appropriate.
All future Raytown School District tax dollars generated by buildings within the Winchester TIF would go to the district. Money generated for other taxing jurisdictions, such as the Mid-Continent Public Library, also would start going to those jurisdictions.
Sticking points still exist.
Markley wants to see the deal in contract form, all legal and everything. I can’t blame him.
That’s because Raytown feels it was abused by city officials years ago regarding the Blue Ridge Crossing TIF project, which replaced the old Blue Ridge Mall.
The city pledged to work out a deal that would have sent $170,000 or so every year in payments to the district in exchange for supporting the TIF. But the deal was never officially worked out by the prior administration of Mayor Kay Barnes and City Manager Wayne Cauthen.
So the Raytown district, in the Winchester TIF mess, has asked to receive that money, as well. However, the deal on the table from the city does not include what Raytown has asked for.
That does not mean it’s a dealbreaker, apparently.
Now, Raytown and Kansas City officials need to make sure they work out a final negotiated settlement that allows the soccer complex to move forward but also end the TIF plan as soon as possible.