KCUR News
4:58 pm
Tue January 19, 2010

Legal Knuckles Bared In TIF Tempest

Kansas City, Mo. –
The Jackson County executive pledges to sue Kansas City government unless the city's Tax Increment Finance Commission is opened to broader representation. Documents supporting a motion for temporary restraining order are written and ready to file for a donnybrook-in-the-making.

Jackson County estimates it has $3.5 Million in revenue diverted to TIFs yet has no vote in spending it. Missouri law requires an 11 member TIF commission to move a project. Kansas City's has six, appointed by the mayor.

County executive Mike Sanders says 3 years of negotiations with the city fell apart last week and the decision was made to sue--" to enforce our statutory rights to ensure that the citizens of this community, of the library boards, of the school districts and the citizens of Jackson County have a voice, some voice, in how their tax dollars are being spent."

Sanders adds that reforming the commission will safeguard public dollars for essential services including libraries and education. A TIF financial impact overview exhibit prepared by the county lists jurisdictions' share of diverted property taxes . The city of Kansas City share is $5 million, Kansas City Public Library is $1.5 million, $15.4 million to the Kansas City School District, $1.2 million to the Raytown School District, $400 thousand to mental health and $800 thousand to the Metropolitan Junior College.

While the use of TIF can be complex, Sanders says the request for reform can be simple. In 1991 Kansas City passed an ordinance creating its TIF Commission comprised of six members, all appointed by the mayor. Six years later, in 1997 the Missouri Legislature changed the landscape for TIF Commissions, mandating that before any city could approve any TIF project or plan, that "it shall create a Commission of 11 persons."

Executive Sanders says that for the last almost 12 years, the city has continued to disregard that mandate.

The pending lawsuit would attempt to force the change. Sanders says it will be filed January 22nd, unless the Kansas City Council agrees to change its ordinance. There has been no official reaction from the city.