Shawnee Dispatch

Councilman defends recent approval of tax incentives

August 24, 2017

To the editor:

A recent letter to the editor suggested that the city of Shawnee is engaging in “indiscriminate use of tax incentives,” that recent primary election results were a rebuke to recent decisions on incentives, and that core city services are being jeopardized — all of which could not be further from the truth.

Shawnee’s use of tax incentives to spur development is among the most conservative in all of Johnson County, which in the past sometimes resulted in the lost development opportunities over the years to our neighbors.

Tax incentives such as TIFs and CIDs often attract the most public scrutiny, but as a city, our cautious approach is reflected in the fact that we currently have only two active TIF projects (Shawnee Plaza and Prairie Pines) and we only have one active CID (Ten Quivira Plaza).

Shawnee is among only a few communities that does not use a dime of taxpayer dollars for our additional programs like SEED, which provides loan repayment, leasing offsets, and property tax reimbursement for businesses choosing to locate in Shawnee and hire employees. In fact, our entire economic development fund is derived from the landfill impact fee – payments from the landfill to offset the loss of developable land and the adverse impact on the community from landfill operations.

Sound, smart, aggressive economic development is an absolute necessity if we are to remain a viable, growing community and stabilize and reduce the tax burden on homeowners and seniors. Increased business property taxes and sales taxes creates a balanced, diverse tax base, preventing an overreliance on homeowner property taxes.

Contrary to the hype, these tools are not tax giveaways, but strategically reinvesting future tax revenues back into development projects to offset costs for a period of time while still growing jobs and special sales tax revenues in the interim until the development officially arrives on the tax rolls.

We face significant development challenges as a community: even though we are the third largest city in Johnson County in land area, less than 25 percent of our assessed valuation is commercial property, less than many of our neighboring cities, some of which are much smaller in area. Only 12 percent of our land can be classified as active commercial, office, or industrial use. Our topography issues — abundant rock and hilly terrain — often result in increased costs that deters development.

Support and funding for core city services has not suffered, but grown over the last year. Last year, the Governing Body approved record levels of funding for pipes and pavement, as seen by the repaving of numerous city streets.

Public safety has also been strengthened with the hiring of 12 new fire fighters, six new police officers, self-contained breathing apparatuses, funding for body cameras, plans for a new fire station to improve response times, and investments in new technology and equipment — all within the past year.

Despite the rhetoric heard on the campaign trail, our 2017 Citizen Satisfaction Survey revealed that 70 percent of residents support the use of tax incentives to attract new businesses and redevelop struggling areas. A vast majority of residents (88%) are satisfied with the quality of life here in Shawnee.

Economic development is a direct investment in our community — in new dining, entertainment, and retail amenities for our families; in jobs and a sustainable workforce; and in continued revenue for vital city services.

The hyper-competitive local economic landscape in Johnson County requires that the city actively engage in reasonable and judicious, yet deliberate use of incentives to grow our community.

Anything less and we risk our quality of life and our future as a community of choice for those who want to live, work and raise families in Shawnee.

Brandon Kenig,

Council President

Councilmember – Ward 4

City of Shawnee

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