Lenexa City Council candidates on the issues: When, if ever, are public finances incentives appropriate?

Last month, we asked our readers what issues they wanted to hear the candidates running for local office address ahead of the August primary. Based on the (ample) input we received, we developed a five-item questionnaire for candidates running for city council in Lenexa.

Today, we begin publishing the candidates’ responses. The first question was as follows:

In recent years, developers have become increasingly likely to seek public finance incentives like tax increment financing and community improvement district sales taxes to pay for parts of their private projects. What’s your stance on the use of such incentives? When, if ever, is it appropriate to commit public finances to private real estate projects?

City Council Ward 4

Emily Behrmann

TIFs are used worldwide to encourage economic development, and Lenexa is no different. During my time on the executive board of the Lenexa Chamber of Commerce, I was struck by the increasing competition in the Kansas City region to attract businesses. I’m sure we’ve all seen headquarters moving from one side of the state line to the other and maybe back again. In my opinion, the City of Lenexa and the Lenexa Chamber of Commerce have done a masterful job of making sure we’re at the table when these negotiations take place, offering to share the risk of initial site development, and provide some property tax relief. This strategy makes our city more attractive to businesses and having them in Lenexa strengthens us economically and provides amenities for all of us. Over time, the city’s investment is reimbursed by the businesses, so it can be a win-win.

Linda Leeper

Cities in Johnson County are extremely competitive when it comes to business development and expansion. Most cities have a range of tax incentives offerings in which the governing bodies have the authority to enter into a private/public partnership for business development and redevelopment projects in their city. These decisions are made on the determination that the project most likely would not have happened “but for” the city’s willingness to invest with the tax incentives and create the partnerships. I support those opportunities that continue to expand our business-rich base, creating highly educated jobs and generate increment tax revenue. The revenues generated, earned either through property taxes or sales taxes, provides the ability to sustain neighborhoods with police and fire, maintain streets and enhance our community parks for a quality of life our citizens expect.

Julie Sayers

In my experience, TIF funded projects can be successful in activating parts of communities where development or housing is lacking. An appropriately planned commercial or recreational development can support the economy by increasing patronage in other local businesses, increase interest in nearby housing, and/or drive tourism. These projects should be critically evaluated for approval on the basis that these objectives can be achieved, and to validate that the project would not be possible without the assistance of the TIF.

Tomorrow we’ll publish the candidates’ responses to question two:

The city recently completed an extensive planning process in Vision 2040. When you consider the Vision 2040 document, what sticks out to you as the top priority for the Lenexa city council to try to address in the coming decades?