The Kansas City Star Media Co. has asked to amend the 10-year property tax abatement granted on its press building, seeking to reduce its potential 2015 tax bill by about half.
Publisher Mi-Ai Parrish confirmed the request Thursday.
Absent any changes, The Star would owe about $700,000 in property taxes for this year based on Jackson County’s $22 million assessed value of the green glass and metal building on Oak Street, said Roxsen Koch, an attorney representing the company.
The Star has asked instead to make a payment in lieu of taxes based on a lower property value determined by BKD, an independent property valuation expert. BKD has pegged the structure’s current full market value at $10.6 million.
“There has been a disagreement about the value of the property,” Koch said.
Koch said the annual payment under the proposed amendment would be about $337,000, which is more than twice the payments the company made for 2014. The Star still pays property taxes on the land, a payment that reflects the value of the buildings the press plant replaced and the recently assessed streetcar levy.
Under The Star’s proposal, it would agree to make the same payment over the next 15 years. Koch said that offers stability for The Star’s budgeting as well as protection for the taxing authorities against a potential drop in future county assessed values.
The existing agreement was to abate an estimated $12.8 million in property taxes over 10 years, which ended last year.
At the time the original abatement was granted in October 2002, the company was criticized for seeking the tax break because it had editorialized against some other tax abatement proposals. The newspaper company has said several times that it would resume paying full property taxes on the facility after 10 years.
Parrish said the company has made its new request “in a media market that has been challenging.” The Star, owned by the McClatchy Co., was owned by Knight Ridder Inc. at the time of the original tax abatement agreement.
“It’s different times under a different owner,” she said.
The request to amend the agreement on the press building is set for consideration at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday by the city’s Chapter 353 Advisory Board. The board meets on the 17th floor of the Town Pavilion at 1100 Walnut St.
The original abatement was approved unanimously by the Kansas City Council. Property tax abatement proposals are now handled first by the Chapter 353 board that is appointed by Mayor Sly James.
Joe Egan, executive director of the 353 program, said the advisory board would make a recommendation to the City Council, with the council voting on it later. James declined to comment on The Star’s request.
In seeking the original tax abatement, The Star had said it wanted to equalize the cost of building the project downtown with the lower costs to build in other locations. It had considered sites in Lenexa, Olathe and Lee’s Summit and on Kansas City’s East Side.
Newspaper officials pointed out then that the new presses in the building remained taxable as personal property. The Star paid an estimated $15.8 million in taxes on them over the 10-year real estate tax break period.
To reach Mark Davis, call 816-234-4372. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at mdkcstar.