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Shawnee Mission School Board Does Not Veto Meadownbrook Project

Sam Zeff

At an unusual early morning meeting Wednesday, the Shawnee Mission School District board decided to allow a tax increment financing (TIF) project to move forward.

The school board could have vetoed the plan to redevelop the old Meadowbrook County Club at 91st Street and Nall Avenue in Prairie Village. Most of the 133-acre property, about two-thirds, would be turned into a park operated by Johnson County. The rest would be redeveloped into single family homes, a senior living center and a small hotel.

The property taxes and sales taxes generated by a TIF project go back to the developer to offset the developer's costs. In this case, however, the money will go to the county to help pay for the park land. Before the meeting, superintendent Jim Hinson said the county parks department and district officials had been in touch to discuss how the new park and other parks could be used to benefit Shawnee Mission students.

But there is a long-term worry about the growing number of TIF projects in the 14 cities within the Shawnee Mission District boundaries. The district will see no tax revenue from those projects.

“So we’re in a situations where we’re going to see a significant increase in student enrollment, no increase in revenue," Hinson says. "That’s really the challenge for us.”

In fact, Hinson says, there is $3 billion in development going on or proposed in Johnson County. TIF projects not only capture revenue that could go to the school district, but also to the Johnson County Library, Johnson County Community College and local fire districts.

Kansas law allows school districts to veto projects. Hinson says because TIF is being used more often now in Johnson County, the school board will come up with a policy this month to help guide future decisions.

With enrollment growing, the district must protect its financial future.

“Normally when your community is expanding or developing, you have an increase in revenue to offset the increase in services that are required," Hinson says.  "That is not what occurs when you have TIFs that happen."

Sam Zeff covers education for KCUR 89.3. He's also host of KCUR's political podcast Statehouse Blend. Follow him on Twitter @samzeff.

You deserve to know what your taxpayer dollars are paying for and what public officials are doing on your behalf – I’ll work to report on irresponsible government spending in the Kansas City area and shed light on controversies that slow government down. And when you hear my voice in the morning, you know you’re getting everything you need to start your day. Email me at sam@kcur.org, find me on Twitter @samzeff or call me at 816-235-5004.
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