Board of County Commissioners candidates on the issues: Johnson County’s TIF veto powers on local development

Last month, we asked our readers what issues they wanted to hear the candidates running for office address ahead of November’s general election. Based on the input we received, we developed a five-item questionnaire for candidates running for seats on the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners.

We’ll be publishing the candidates’ responses to one item per day each day this week. Today we’re publishing the candidates’ responses to the final item in our questionnaire:

Johnson County Government has the authority to veto applications for tax-increment financing (TIF) districts developers submit to cities — but has not exercised that power in recent years. Critics of TIF suggest it diverts tax dollars that governments could use on services to private entities. Proponents say TIF is a net benefit to communities by increasing tax revenues in the long run. Do you think the board of county commissioners should consider using its TIF veto power more frequently? Why or why not?

District 2 (Parts of Shawnee and Lenexa and all of Lake Quivira)

Jeff Meyers

Tax increment financing is a development tool used to encourage development of obsolete or challenging sites with higher project costs than a shovel-ready green field site. Some of the goals are to create future economic stability, revitalize older commercial areas and bring vibrant dining,shopping and entertainment to name a few. I would approach these situations as I did when I was the Mayor or City Councilman when development wanted TIF, TDD, CID or tax abatements. I would not be a rubber stamp but would judge each one on its own merits. I have been for and against some of these developments in the past and have relied on common sense decision making that I felt was either beneficial or detrimental to my community and its residents. Much goes into these decisions which includes listening to residents, cities, developers and following policy and laws. I am ready for these challenges because of my experience.

Rob Patterson

Getting a new business, or a business new to an area, off the ground is very difficult, and one way a taxing authority can help promote economic development is to give those businesses a break on taxes. If those businesses flourish, then the area they are in will generally benefit with an influx of jobs. The downside of tax breaks are that they don’t get evenly distributed. The government picks the winners and losers, and the public doesn’t benefit from that. The veto power should be considered if an established business enters a new city and is given an advantage over an existing business.

District 3 (Southern Leawood and Overland Park plus Stilwell and Spring Hill)

Stacy Obringer-Varhall

Cities have done a good job assessing and evaluating the TIF applications on a case by case basis. Cities are closest to their citizens and have the knowledge to determine when a TIF would be beneficial to spur more tax support long term – exactly why local control is so valuable. While cities are in the best position to make these decisions, they can also partner with the BOCC to determine the potential impacts on the county services such as transit. The BOCC could only veto a TIF if there is an “adverse effect on the county”. I do support continued use of economic development tools to develop the New Century Airport and promote economic development throughout the county. A strong economy leads to strong county services and the high quality of life that we have come to rely on in Johnson County.

Charlotte O’Hara

Every TIF district should be reviewed and a veto vote taken. If the proponents of TIF districts are correct and these projects do increase tax revenues, our property taxes should be going down……hmmmmm, perhaps their suppositions are in error.

District 6 (Much of Olathe and western Johnson County)

Mike Brown

Did not respond.

Shirley Allenbrand

I do not think the county should use a TIF veto power. I am a local control advocate and the cities is where development occurs. City leaders are closer to the voters and our cities address this issue on a case by case basis.

The county should review the city and state cost benefit analysis of proposed TIF projects. There are countless examples in our cities where TIF has been very successful and provided increase tax base. I also support the use of incentives to continue development of New Century Airport.