Shawnee Mayoral 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 mayor in Shawnee.

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?

Michelle Distler (incumbent)

Incentives should not be given just to be given. The project needs to be such that it is good for both the developer and the city as a whole. I have been very selective in the ones I have voted in approval over the years. I understand the need in certain circumstances such as if an area is topographically difficult to build on. We as a city are very conservative in that the return on investment ratio benefits us as a city and that we do not operate at a loss. I will also add that in Shawnee everything we have approved in the past years has had protections in place for our taxpayers so they were never at risk.

Stephanie Meyer

Public financing should be used only to the extent that it resolves special and/or unique considerations to making a site suitable for development. The rules that govern these financial tools are well defined, and when properly adhered to, are an excellent means of allowing the city to advance its economy, expand the tax base, and in the process, ultimately reduce the tax burden on our residents.

Our topography, for example, is very challenging in some parts of Shawnee, and providing an incentive that helps to level the playing field in terms of site costs could create a competitive advantage, while still serving to decrease our overall reliance on residential property taxes.

Ajay Sood

Did not respond.

Dawn Tubbesing

I believe proper use of investments in our community through TIF, CIDs or other mechanisms are appropriate when their use helps to enhance the project to the benefit of the community. This investment should be considered for special projects. This can include using higher quality materials that would increase value of assets for the community and/or aesthetics to help project fit within the neighborhoods. It may be appropriate if using one of these tools will allow for a larger plan- therefore higher vale -asset for the city tax base. This tool can also be a benefit to public /private partnerships when the land cannot otherwise be developed due to topography, access or other issues with the property. It is important we have a clear policy in order to draw business but it is equally important that we examine individual projects for the appropriate use or not offer of incentives.

Tomorrow we’ll publish the candidates’ responses to item number two:

In May, Shawnee voters soundly rejected a proposed property tax increase to pay for a community center. What steps should the city be taking following the outcome of the election: Should it be looking to put together a different proposal for building and funding a community center? Should it be looking at different ideas for using the land?