In recent years, Kansas City area elected officials have approved a flood of taxpayer-financed improvements for privately owned casinos, shopping centers and other businesses.
Now one city has had the good sense to hit the “pause” button on these giveaways, which are financed with the help of a higher sales tax charged in a community improvement district, or CID.
Leawood officials are sticking up for taxpayers, despite pressure from businesses that want to impose higher sales taxes on their customers.
In one case, Hy-Vee corporate officials showed how businesses have become incentive-driven. Typically, most of this assistance applies to outside improvements.
But the company wanted a sales tax increase to help pay for upgradesinside
its store at 12200 State Line Rd. Leawood has rejected that use, which would be yet another way for government picking winners and losers.
In response, Hy-Vee officials say they will close the store in June.
Leawood officials also are reviewing a request for $10 million worth of taxpayer-provided improvements to the Camelot Court Shopping Center at 119th Street and Roe Avenue. The staff recommendation is a more modest $3.8 million in public support.
The City Council is set to discuss the issue Monday night.
CIDs have some enthusiastic sponsors, led by developers and businesses that want to reduce how much of their own money must be used to maintain or improve their properties. They would rather have taxpayers pony up, even in the suburbs, where blight often doesn’t apply as a rationale.
Politicians in Kansas City, Overland Park and several other cities have embraced the CID concept. Their argument is that it makes users pay for amenities they enjoy while spending money in a certain area of town.
However, the downside is that these customers often are paying extra taxes to support normal operating expenses. CIDs help support a select number of landlords or developers by reducing their costs of doing business.
Leawood is trying to change how this form of corporate welfare is handled. We hope the city succeeds. Others in the area also should impose tougher rules for CIDs.