Developers for the Brookridge project in Overland Park sidestepped another potential obstacle on Wednesday when the Shawnee Mission school board chose not to block the development’s potential use of tax increment financing.
During a specially called morning meeting, the board took no action on the financing for the $1.8 billion development proposed at Interstate 435 and Antioch Road. Developers want to turn the former Brookridge golf and country club into a mixed-use area with office and retail space, apartments, a 3,500-seat performance arena, a park area and a nine-hole golf course.
With tax increment financing, or TIF, developers may retain future gains in property tax revenues on a project to help offset certain development costs.
The Overland Park City Council last month approved the creation of a TIF district for Brookridge and is currently negotiating a final financing package. Although Kansas law gives cities ultimate authority to approve TIF for developments, it also gives school boards the option to veto the financing within 30 days of the TIF district being created if school officials determine it would adversely affect their revenue.
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Fred Logan, the board’s legal counsel, reported that a committee of administrators and financial officials reviewed plans for Brookridge and estimated that the district would not suffer significant financial adverse effects.
Logan said that current state rules for funding public school operations prevent the district from capturing the incremental gains in property value anyway, so the TIF would not cost the district any potential revenue for operations.
The district can capture future property assessment gains for capital projects, such as the construction of new schools, so a TIF could potentially affect those dollars. However, he noted that Overland Park plans to limit the TIF to diverting 90 percent or less of future value gains, meaning the district will still see some revenue for capital projects.
The committee members acknowledged that many details of the development are still unknown but stressed that the deadline for the board to act required the members to make a decision now.
They also said that while residents have complained that the project is too large for the area and will potentially add to traffic and storm water problems, the school board must restrict itself just to the financial effects.
“I think a lot of our community is looking for us to kind of be the white knight, to come through and veto this project,” said board member Deb Zila. “Our laser focus has to be on the financial impact to our district as we know it to date.”
Board member Cindy Neighbor, however, said she was against allowing the TIF to go forward at this time because she didn’t know how long the TIF will last, the exact projects it will help build, and whether state laws will change soon regarding how school districts are affected by TIF projects.
“I’m not opposed to economic development, but there are too many unknowns,” Neighbor said.
The board’s decision to take no action disappointed many of the group of residents who attended the meeting. Some pointed out that the Kansas Legislature is expected to write a new funding formula for public education this spring, and they said the board members should have voted down the TIF until they know how TIF projects will affect schools under that new plan.
“It’s very irresponsible to make such a large decision with not enough information,” said Michelle Julian, whose property backs up to the project.
In addition to TIF, the developers and city staff have also discussed using STAR bonds, a community improvement district, private investment and sales tax exemptions for construction materials as potential revenue to help the project along.
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