Overland Park Wards 1 and 2 city council candidates on the issues: Tax incentives

Overland Park Wards 1 and 2 city council candidates answer the final question of the 2021 questionnaire on tax incentives, such as the one approved in 2019 for the Brookridge development near Antioch and Interstate 435. File image.

In early June, the Shawnee Mission Post asked readers for input on questions for candidates vying for seats in the upcoming election season. Based on that input, the Post developed a questionnaire for candidates running for Overland Park city council seats.

Each day this week, we will publish the candidates’ responses to one of these five questions. Read the candidates’ responses to previously published questions about affordable housing, police transparency, climate change and chip seal. Today we’re publishing the candidates responses to item five:

The city’s use of tax incentives to attract businesses and spur new development have become the subject of extensive debate in recent years. What’s your general view on the use of tax incentives? Should they ever be used for greenfield projects? Are there any tax incentive tools you believe should never be used? Why or why not?

Overland Park City Council Ward 1

Michael Czerniewski

TIF funding has done little if anything for our metropolitan area. The reason for this is that they’ve mostly been used to attract companies to the Kansas side from Missouri. This doesn’t create new jobs. It’s shifting the same jobs to a different part of the metro. Further, hardly any truly new jobs have been created from such programs. So, if a TIF were to get my support, there would have to be a program in place to ensure that these are indeed new jobs that would spring up from such development and encourage entrepreneurs to participate.

Logan Heley (incumbent)

I only support incentives if there is a financial return on investment for our taxpayers and for our schools. I have worked hard to ensure tax and incentive policies are focused on residents and community benefits, not wealthy developers. And that’s why I don’t take a dime of campaign contributions from developers.

Some incentives I’ve supported, and some incentives I haven’t supported, especially if they would raise our already-too-high sales tax rate. The key for me is always if our community is getting more benefit from the deal then we’re giving up. Since joining the Council, I’ve advocated for our city to update its incentive policies to prioritize diversifying our community’s housing portfolio, environmental sustainability, and social equity considerations as well as infill development (rather than greenfield).

Carol Merritt

My are research has a interesting conclusion. There are around 30,000 elderly over the age of 65. They have paid into the property tax fund for 30 years or more on their family homes, Many are unable to afford the high property tax and must sell their homes and move. This is UNACCEPTABLE to me. I would do MY BEST to give these great folks who have paid and paid taxes a tax break. That way, we can honor their contribution to our city. Big business needs to help small businesses too. Many little business owners have lost everything due to COVID-19. Big business must pay their fair share to help them. To give tax incentives only to big businesses is UNACCEPTABLE to me.

Ryan Spencer

I am, overall, against the use of tax incentives to bring businesses into Overland Park. We’re continuously reminded about how high OP ranks in the latest “best of cities” list that comes out, we need to use that to our advantage. Overland Park sells itself; people and businesses want to come here and we don’t need to be wasting tax payer dollars to do bring in multi-state or out of state businesses that quite honestly have the funding to do it themselves. If we are providing tax incentives for businesses, it should be for TRULY blighted areas or small and medium sized local businesses to encourage Overland Park residents to open a business in their own city/neighborhood. I don’t believe they should be used for greenfield projects either. I can’t keep track of how many for lease, for rent, and for sale signs I’ve seen on office space around Overland Park since the pandemic; retail and office space seems to be a resource we are in no short supply of. We have plenty of areas in the city that simply need redevelopment, we don’t need to be encouraging the destruction of natural lands over reusing existing office/retail space.

Overland Park City Council Ward 2

Melissa Cheatham

Overland Park is one of the best places in the country to live, work and play. People and employers want to be here. As such, taxpayer subsidies should be used strategically to encourage the highest quality projects that advance community goals and catalyze additional unsubsidized growth.

Done right, incentives can be deployed to revitalize entire neighborhoods, prevent blight, bring good jobs, or attract innovative projects. For example, I see the revitalization and investment in Downtown Overland Park as a success. Public-private partnership has turned an area that had been devoid of investment for decades into a thriving destination with new energy, businesses, and residents, and new choices for how to live in Overland Park. Taxpayers’ investment is already paying dividends for the city by increasing property values and generating sales tax revenues today.

However, the council should not be a rubber stamp for every request from a developer. I have spoken in the past to raise concerns about incentive requests. For example, I have raised concerns about using incentives to give a face lift to an aging strip mall or build a traditional office tower instead of encouraging the mixed-use, walkable development pictured in the city’s vision documents. I would also support leading by example and requiring projects built with taxpayer funds to meet a higher environmental or energy efficiency standard than is required of privately-funded projects. I believe we should reserve incentives to encourage high quality development that advances the city’s visions.

Tony Medina

I believe economic development investments such as Tax Increment Financing (TIFs) and Community Improvement Districts (CIDs) can be powerful tools when applied in a critical and impactful manner. Each TIF or CID request should be thoroughly analyzed to ensure it makes sense for the future of Overland Park. We offer a great place for businesses to develop and expand without needlessly impacting future tax revenues.

Roger Tarbutton

As one of the most desirable places to live in the nation, Overland Park will attract plenty of new development without the use of tax incentives. In my opinion, tax incentives have been overused in the last decade, eroding the tax base and shifting the burden of increased taxes onto the backs of homeowners. Tax incentives should be reserved for truly exceptional projects or to rehabilitate distressed property not for run of the mill high-rise apartments and mixed-use developments.