School district beats Kansas City Hall, gets millions of dollars

cityhakllThe needed battle to rein in tax breaks that are doled out by Kansas City Hall recently is turning, ever so slightly, in favor of taxing jurisdictions such as school districts, libraries and counties.

Now, here are key details about the latest big victory, which deserves plenty of public attention.

Kansas City officials for years have enjoyed tremendous power to give away other people’s money. They do that partly by having the most votes on the Tax Increment Financing Commission that awards public incentives to private businesses. This action diverts tax dollars from schools, libraries and other jurisdictions.

Enter Superintendent Allan Markley and his Raytown School District.

Earlier this month, on an 11-0 vote, the Kansas City Council finally settled a lawsuit filed by the district regarding a TIF plan the city approved in 2005. Developers tore down the Blue Ridge Mall and replaced it with a taxpayer-subsidized shopping center — called Blue Ridge Crossing — anchored by a Wal-Mart.

Under the legal settlement, the district will get $3 million, with $600,000 paid this year and $200,000 a year for the next dozen years.

As I wrote back in February, Raytown officials had thought they had long ago worked out an agreement to get some funds from the city to compensate it for lost public dollars at Blue Ridge Crossing. But the suit claimed the city reneged, and the victory at City Hall affirms the district’s argument.

Reminder: Markley and his district three years ago posted another solid victory over City Hall.

I wrote about this one as well, and pushed for the city to protect the Raytown district (which both my now-grown children attended) from being disenfranchised by yet another TIF scheme.

The city had hoped to build soccer fields in Swope Park using much of the excess $11 million in TIF revenues created by a nearby development plan. But the Raytown School District was supposed to get about $4 million of it — with other taxing jurisdictions getting some of it as well.

Eventually, the city succumbed to another Markley lawsuit  threat and the district got its money.

Bravo to the Raytown School District. Others need to emulate its rebellious attitudes when it comes to corporate welfare in Kansas City.

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