Proposed Community Improvement District for 85th & Wornall gets vote

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Establishing a CID at 85th & Wornall could help generate $10 million in private investment for the deteriorating area. But the lack of oversight for CIDs makes the project controversial.

 

To Be CID or Not To Be CID

Proposed Community Improvement District for 85th & Wornall Gets Vote

By Samuel Ast

On December 5th, members of the Planning, Zoning, and Economic Development Committee will decide whether or not to advance councilman Scott Taylor’s proposal for a new Community Improvement District in south Kansas City.

The proposed district would be located in the area surrounding the Wornall Village Shopping Center on 85th and Wornall. The shopping center features a Price Chopper grocery store, several other commercial retail establishments, and an abandoned restaurant building that used to serve fast food.

In March, plans were drafted by the Tutera Group and Nolte and Associates, to renovate the area and make it more pedestrian friendly. Now, the owner of the shopping center wants the city to designate  the area as a Community improvement District, or CID, as well. Councilman Taylor says that the creation of a CID will help encourage $10 million in private investment that will enable the project to move forward more quickly.

“Revitalizing neighborhood shopping centers such as the 85th and Wornall shopping center is good for the surrounding neighborhoods and homeowners,” says Taylor. “We have worked to revitalize Red Bridge Shopping Center and many others in the last couple of years.”

The $10 million will not be the only money going toward funding these improvement projects. CIDs allow for a 1 percent sales tax increase on all purchases made within their boundaries, which means that consumers will be footing the bill for the construction costs, too.

The Waldo area, represented in Kansas City by both Councilman Taylor and Kevin McManus has been the subject of increased fiscal attention since April 2017 when voters approved $800 million for capital improvements and infrastructure to be spent over 20 years.

“GO KC”, as the initiative is known, resulted in the reconstruction of Wornall road including the replacement of pavement, curbs, gutters, and street lights which began in July. These improvements are estimated to cost $3.5 million and should be completed by spring 2019.

In 2017 alone, CIDs received $74.3 million in the state of Missouri. An August report from the State Auditor’s Office reveals a few major problems with how CIDs are implemented and monitored. The report states that 73 percent of CIDs did not properly prepare or adopt budgets to submit to various municipalities, potentially leaving cities in the dark about how their resident’s taxes were to be used.

Additionally, the report goes on to state that “the [Missouri] Department of Revenue does not have adequate procedures in place to ensure district sales taxes are correctly administered, charged, collected, and disbursed.”

In fact, in a separate report filed in December 2017, State Auditor Nicole Galloway lays out a specific case where some of these legal compliance and efficiency issues have occurred. The report concerns the Ward Parkway Center, which is located in the same City Council district as the proposed 84th and Wornall project. Since its formation, this district has received over $15 million in city financing, with sales tax revenues of more than $1.4 million in 2017. The audit reports the CID “did not utilize a competitive process to select a vendor for such services. The Executive Director of the Board approved over $1.2 million in construction management payments to companies she was employed by or to companies that share common ownership with her employer.” The report concludes that “conflicts of interest were noted in the approval of payments for construction management services.”

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Conflict of interest was noted for construction of Ward Parkway’s South End and its CID board members. Photo by Kathy Feist. 

“When projects are funded by public dollars, they should employ practices to ensure the taxpayers are getting the very best return on the investment,” Auditor Galloway said. “More must be done to ensure special taxing districts are acting transparently and in the best interest of taxpayers.”

The Wornall Village CID will be voted on by the full council if it successfully makes it out of Committee.

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