It’s high time to spend the taxpayer funds necessary to answer this extremely crucial question: Have Kansas City’s political leaders wisely spent hundreds of millions of dollars on public subsidies for private development?
The best way to answer that question is to hire an independent consultant to thoroughly review it, then tell the people of Kansas City whether they live in tax-break heaven or tax-break hell.
Hmm, this idea sounds familiar. Indeed, the City Council told City Manager Troy Schulte 10 months ago to conduct a comprehensive study of this issue. Here is the story from The Star; here is the council’s resolution.
Finally, this is happening:
A City Council committee on Wednesday and probably the full council on Thursday will decide whether the members want to spend up to $350,000 on consultants “to evaluate the impact of the city’s use of development incentives,” as The Star’s Steve Vockrodt reported.
So go ahead and spend the money — but only if City Council members such as Katheryn Shields, Quinton Lucas, Heather Hall and others are convinced the eventual outcome is not already rigged.
Mayor Sly James and plenty of people in the economic development crowd have long claimed that the public incentives have done wonders but that City Hall hasn’t been able to get this good-news story out to the people.
In reality, the city doesn’t have the factual statistics to solidly prove that the many years of tax breaks have performed the economic miracles claimed for them.
The biggest opponents of the city’s contentions have been leaders of taxing districts, especially the Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City Public Schools and Jackson County, as well as others. They have legitimate concerns about the amounts of public funds doled out to developers.
But many of these concerns also can’t be “proved” with hard data. The tax-break skeptics have some of the same problems that City Hall does. They all need better, independently reached conclusions about what’s really going on.
It’s disappointing that Kansas City officials are 10 months into this process and just now on the cusp of hiring a consultant. One last problem: The supposedly impartial study isn’t expected to be done until May 2017.