Testimony Opposing Expansion of the Wichita City South Redevelopment Tax Increment Financing District

From John Todd.

Mr. Mayor and members of the Wichita City Council, thank you for allowing me this opportunity to speak before you today. My name is John Todd. I stand before you today as a citizen in opposition to the Expansion of the City South Redevelopment District (Tax Increment Financing) (Districts I & VI).

I testified before you on July 1, 2008 in opposition to the Old Town Warren Theater Loan that you recently approved. The City Council at that time cited the need for taxpayer assistance to prop up an “under-performing” $9.5 million dollar Tax Increment Financing (TIF) subsidy program that a previous city council awarded to Old Town developers in 1998.

The size of the Old Town TIF project pales in comparison to the $61,772,000 projected in “parking and infrastructure improvements in the Arena Neighborhood Redevelopment Plan area, to be paid for by the TIF” that you are considering today. What vision for a successful TIF in 2008 does this city council have that the 1998 council lacked? What will another “under-performing” TIF cost future taxpayers? Is it the proper role of city government to speculate in real estate ventures using taxpayer money?

Sedgwick County voters approved the $184.5 (now $205) million dollar downtown arena and have been assured repeatedly by the three county commissioners who originally voted for the arena that adequate parking exists for the arena. I am a little more than suspect when I see the word “parking” in the TIF proposal you are considering today?

Voters of the arena were told that their approval of the new arena would provide the “economic boost” and the “synergy” needed for effective downtown redevelopment. No mention was made of the need for additional taxpayer subsidy. I believe our new downtown arena project should be given the chance to perform economically as promised before additional taxpayer money is committed to the project.

If you approve this TIF, please keep in mind that approximately 45% of the $61.8 million dollar proposal or roughly $28 million will be diverted away from The Wichita Public Schools over a 20-year period and another 27% or roughly $16 million from the Sedgwick County taxpayers.

If you approve this TIF, I believe an excerpt from the July 5, 2008 Wall Street Journal article entitled “Blame Taxes for Baltimore’s Rot” (written by Steve H. Hanke and Stephen J.K. Walters) is on target for Wichita, “True enough, the ability to hand out subsidies gives officials great power. But it also gives them a reason, and incentive, to dismiss the common sense that if tax breaks for the well-connected are a good idea, lower tax rates across the board would lead to broad-based redevelopment.”

We need to rely on privately funded redevelopment downtown and not on taxpayer-subsidized redevelopment that favors the politically well-connected developers to the exclusion of all other private developers.

Please vote against the proposed TIF.

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