The Shawnee Mission Board of Education is scheduled today to take a stand on a park project financed through tax increment financing.
It’s extremely unfortunate that the school district doesn’t have a policy that clearly outlines what it considers important when reviewing TIF-backed economic development within its sprawling boundaries.
Under TIF proposals, increases in future property tax revenues caused by redevelopment are diverted from taxing entities such as school districts. Developers often use the money to complete their projects.
The school board could approve or reject the district’s participation in the reuse of the former Meadowbrook Golf and Country Club in Prairie Village.
The pressure is on the district to back the project. It would help Prairie Village officials pay for parkland they desperately want to preserve; Johnson County would develop and maintain it. Developer VanTrust Real Estate would build new housing nearby. Prairie Village officials also are eager for the project to proceed because it would attract new residents.
Essentially, the school board has veto over the project as it stands now. If the members vote “no,” the parkland idea could disappear, though some housing construction could occur on the nearly 90 acres of land.
In this case, the future property tax revenue diverted from the school district will help purchase the park. That would increase the amount of green space in northeast Johnson County, which is an appropriate use of taxpayer funds.
However, the education of students is also important, especially in a district that’s again gaining pupils.
One positive outcome today would be a reasonable, last-minute compromise that could help encourage the board to approve the Meadowbrook project, with some of the TIF-diverted money flowing to the district. The city or county then could pay for more of the cost to buy the parkland.
Looking ahead, the district needs a clear TIF policy so it can protect school funding while also promoting appropriate housing and retail projects.