Northeast Joco

Westwood’s 2017 budget benefits from ongoing development

Construction of the new Woodside Village development on Rainbow in Westwood is nearing completion, and starting to open to new tenants.
Construction of the new Woodside Village development on Rainbow in Westwood is nearing completion, and starting to open to new tenants.

The ongoing development boom in Westwood is allowing city leaders to increase the 2017 budget without having to change the tax rate.

City Council members, at last Thursday’s meeting, adopted the annual spending plan, which maintains a total levy of 22.523 mills.

Chief Administrative Officer Fred Sherman said assessed real estate and personal property values within city limits have risen 5.9 percent.

That figure doesn’t include $1.26 million in valuation gains for the mixed-use Woodside Village and Woodside Club apartment and retail projects that have been captured and put toward development costs as part of a tax increment financing district.

However, those projects, along with the pending second phase of Woodside Village, are expected to generate additional building permit fees, sales tax dollars and utility franchise fees for the city.

“Generally we’re in a very good position,” Sherman said.

He acknowledged, however, that the budget was based on “a lot of guesswork” regarding how quickly development advances within the Woodside Village project and would have to be re-evaluated if the project moves slower than expected.

As for other city business, residents will also pay slightly more for trash service with the annual tax assessment increasing from $145.44 to $149.76, plus a $2.24 administrative fee.

The city plans to use the extra total revenue to hire an additional police officer, provide a 3 percent pool for staff salary increases, cover higher health insurance costs and set aside money to replace outdated equipment and pay for other capital expenses.

Mayor John Ye praised what he called “good fiscal management” of the city since the 2008 recession and helpful economic development efforts.

He added that the city’s mix of funding — only 20 percent of revenues come from property taxes — positions the city well when state legislation goes into effect next year requiring future property tax increases greater than the rate of inflation to go to a public vote.

“I know a lot of cities have considered or discussed behind the scenes raising taxes before the (tax) lid takes effect in 2017,” Ye said. “I’m very happy not to have to do that.”

In other business:

▪ Ye also announced that the city is nearing an end to its negotiations with the developers of the second phase of Woodside Village and could schedule a public hearing on the project and an revised tax increment financing plan in October.

A site plan for the second phase, to be built south of 47th Place, was revised on February and envisioned 243 apartment units, more than 16,000 square feet of retail space and a parking deck.

▪  The council voted unanimously to raise the minimum age to buy tobacco, electronic cigarettes and liquid nicotine products within city limits from 18 to 21 years.

The Tobacco 21 initiative, pushed by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, has so far persuaded 15 other Kansas City-area cities to raise the purchasing age for tobacco and similar products.

Scott Hall, the chamber’s vice-president for strategic initiatives, said the ban was designed to prevent young people from picking up the habit of using tobacco products. He said that extended to the sale of e-cigarettes, which research indicates can lead young users to take up smoking.

“We see e-cigarettes or alternative nicotine delivery systems as a key component of this,” Hall said. “There is growing data demonstrating the impact of electronic cigarettes, especially on those 18, 19 and 20 years old.”

The ordinance prohibits only the sale of tobacco and related products to those under 21 and does not penalize possession or use.

David Twiddy: