With a special Shawnee Mission school board meeting set for 7:30 a.m. Wednesday that could determine the fate of the plan to bring an 88-acre public park to part of the Meadowbrook Country Club property, members of the Prairie Village City Council on Monday passed a resolution they hope will assuage the concerns of district officials that appear to be threatening the project.
On a unanimous vote, the council adopted a resolution declaring their intent to pay off the tax increment financing bonds that will be used to fund the purchase of the park as soon as possible, and to remove the park land from the TIF district as soon as the bonds are paid off. Some members of the school district administration had expressed concern that the city may let the park TIF district remain in place for the maximum 20 years, diverting tax money away from schools even after the park is was paid off.
Prairie Village City Administrator Quinn Bennion told the council Monday that members of the school district administration had asked the city to confirm its intentions on the matter.
If the TIF goes into effect, the amount of revenue the school district will generate from the park land will be frozen around $65,000 per year while the TIF bonds are being paid off — a time period estimated at around 15 years. Once the bonds are paid off and the TIF district for the park land is dissolved, the district stands to see tax revenues from the land increase to around $1 million per year, according to estimates from Prairie Village.
A number of members of the council expressed frustration with the Board of Education’s approach to the potential veto vote, suggesting that board members have been ignoring constituent inquiries on the matter.
Longtime councilor Ruth Hopkins indicated she had reached out to SM East area representative Donna Bysfield — with whom she has a long standing relations — to discuss the issue, and Bysfield had never returned her call.
“I was very disappointed by that,” Hopkins said.
Councilor Jori Nelson said she had heard from constituents who said their attempts to contact school board members about the issue had gone ignored as well.
Moreover, the timing of the meeting Wednesday struck some members of the council as obstructionary.
“It disappoints me that the school board has a meeting at 7:30 in the morning,” said councilor Ted Odell. “It disturbs me that there is no public participation as well.”
District spokeswoman Leigh Anne Neal indicated that the decision not to offer public comment at Wednesday’s meeting was due to the fact that, as a special meeting, the specific purpose of the meeting had already been established.
“The Oct. 7 meeting is a special meeting of the board of education rather than a regular board of education meeting,” she wrote. “A special meeting is called for a specific purpose(s), which is included in the meeting notice and agenda. Open forum is provided at the beginning of each regular business meeting as an opportunity for public comment on school district issues.”