Surprise: Good move in KC soccer dispute
The Kansas City Star
The Raytown School District has scored a crucial goal in its principled battle against Kansas City’s funding plans for an expanded youth soccer complex in Swope Park.
School officials this week persuaded Sporting Kansas City officials to pull their involvement in the project.
On Thursday, Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman said his organization would “step aside” for now and not participate in advancing the controversial proposal at City Hall.
That’s an appropriate move by the club. It doesn’t want to be part of the city’s plan to use $13 million in Raytown school funds from the Winchester Center Tax Increment Financing project for the soccer development and other improvements in nearby neighborhoods.
Raytown Superintendent Allan Markley said Thursday that district leaders are going on the offensive, telling city officials, TIF Commission members and Brookside Soccer Club supporters why it opposes using educational funds this way. Raytown has 8,550 students, with 60 percent eligible for free or reduced-price lunches.
It’s also wrong for the city to call for diverting millions of dollars from other taxing jurisdictions. Jackson County, the Mid-Continent Public Library, the Metropolitan Community College, a mental health fund, a handicapped workshop fund and the blind pension fund would be affected. All oppose the plan.
But the city controls a majority of votes on the TIF Commission and could take millions of tax dollars from the other jurisdictions. The plan is set for a January vote.
This irresponsible plan to use taxpayer subsidies has prompted Markley to contact state legislators about making changes to TIF rules. “This is a poster child for TIF reform,” he says.
But City Council member Cindy Circo vowed Thursday to proceed, saying, “It’s a good project.” She said having first-class fields could help make the city and region a magnet for youth soccer tournaments, creating economic development.
The funding plan, however, is a fatal flaw. It’s time for the city to put the buildings in the Winchester TIF area on the tax rolls at full value.
The city then should find a better way to pay for expanding the soccer complex.
The Raytown School District and other taxing jurisdictions next year deserve to start getting the full benefits of tax revenue from the TIF project. That money would help educate children, improve libraries and help handicapped and blind citizens.