Johnson County TIFs disproportionately affect Shawnee Mission School District, says superintendent

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Shawnee Mission School District Superintendent Jim Hinson used his monthly update at the Board of Education meeting Monday to illustrate why his administration has taken a more aggressive posture toward tax increment financing projects over the past months.

Hinson posted a series of slides showing where current TIF projects are located in Johnson County — noting that the vast majority fall within the boundaries of Shawnee Mission, with only a handful located in Olathe or Blue Valley. The Shawnee Mission district is outlined in blue in the map below. Blue Valley is in yellow and Olathe is in red. The areas in red indicate the location of established TIF districts. The blue area is the proposed Meadowbrook TIF district, which has yet to be finalized:

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“You will notice the Blue Valley School District does not have a single TIF. You will notice a few TIFs in Olathe,” Hinson said. “The preponderance of TIFs in Johnson County reside within the Shawnee Mission School District.”

While the concentration of Johnson County TIFs in the northeastern part of the county should be of little surprise — the tool is most frequently applied for redevelopment projects in long-established communities — it does pose a concern to the district as it faces increasingly uncertain education funding prospects.

TIFs pose an issue for school districts because they freeze the amount of tax money that the district receives over the 20-year period of the district while serving as a catalyst for development projects that often boost school enrollment. Districts are therefore required to educate more students without any mechanism for providing additional funding for them — a problem that has been exacerbated by the replacement of the school funding formula with a block grant bill that has not provision for increasing funding as enrollment grows.

Worry about the growing use of TIF (Hinson noted that in the next few months the district will have between 28 and 30 TIF projects within its borders) prompted the district to call a meeting to consider vetoing the Meadowbrook park project last month. It ultimately decided against opposing the project after receiving assurances from the city of Prairie Village that it would close the TIF district as soon as the park bonds were paid off.

Hinson said the administration is still in the process of developing a formal policy on TIF proposals that will inform if and when the district decides to exercise its veto power over such proposals in the future.

Here’s a closer look at the established TIF districts in Shawnee Mission as well as a list of some of the currently active TIFs in the area:

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