Wichita press release mislabels Wichita Downtown Development Corporation


After selecting a firm to assist with the planning for the revitalization of downtown Wichita, the city issued a press release that contains a mischaracterization of a Wichita institution.

The press release reads “The City of Wichita has committed $225,000 for a downtown comprehensive strategic plan. The private sector has contributed $275,000, including $175,000 from Wichita Downtown Development Corporation and $100,000 from businesses, organizations and individuals.” (emphasis added)

Here, the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation is classified as part of the private sector. It’s hard to see how this characterization makes any sense.

The WDDC is organized as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit corporation. But unlike most non-profits — which rely on voluntary contributions from those who support their causes — the WDDC is almost totally funded by a governmental body, the City of Wichita.

In fact, nearly all the WDDC’s revenue comes from taxation. According to its IRS form 990 for 2008, the WDDC received $610,214 from its public improvement district, in the form of property taxes paid by downtown property owners. According to the form, this represents 98.320% of the WDDC’s revenue.

So is the WDDC part of the “private sector?” Of course not. It is funded almost totally by government taxation. The City of Wichita calling WDDC “private sector” is like saying the Wichita public school district is private sector.

You can’t blame the city for trying this sleight of hand. One of the big buzzwords we’re going to hear as part of the coming centralized government plan for downtown is the “public-private partnership.” We can expect the city to do everything it can to pump up the appearance of private sector buy-in to the planning process. This misleading characterization of the WDDC, I suspect, is just the start.


11 responses to “Wichita press release mislabels Wichita Downtown Development Corporation”

  1. Pat

    WDDC is just a tool of the city’s. As long as organizations like WDDC and the Chamber are on the city’s funding teat, they will never be totally representative of the private side’s interest.

  2. Larry Weber

    I take exception to your interpretation of the WDDC not being a part of the private sector. The Wichita Downtown Development Corporation is a 501C3 that exist to manage the SSMID (Self Supporting Municipal Improvement District) set up in 2000 by the property owners of downtown. In 2000 a majority of the downtown property owners voted to impose a tax on ourselves that the city would collect for us and give 100% of it back to the WDDC (whose board is made of 30+ of the major employers and property owners in downtown) to use for the improvement of downtown. How you interpret that to be part of the government sector is beyond me.

  3. Anonymous

    Now let’s see, tax money collected by government from property owners and then dispersed to an auxiliary arm of Wichita city government miraculously becomes “private” sector money? Larry, this is ridiculous and you know it. Looks like you are trying to pull the wool over the public’s eyes.

  4. LonnythePlumber

    The private property owners voted to pay for downtown development and to have the city collect and disburse the funds. They have achieved good improvements for Wichita by self-funding. We should appreciate their independence rather than try to miss characterize it.

  5. Anonymous

    Was the SSMID set up by property owner petition or city council decree? Did 100% of the property owners in the SSMID district agree to pay the tax before it was set up or just a simple majority? Is the tax voluntary? Can the property owners who oppose the SSMID opt out of paying this property tax?

  6. Wichitator

    Can the county treasurer place a tax lien on the person who does not pay the SSMID six mill property tax? I believe the treasurer can and this makes this a tax. Sorry Larry, but Mr. Weeks is once again right.

    I wonder how many Wichitans were fooled by the eagle’s inaccurate and misleading article. I would hope that a correction would be issued by the paper on this significant point.

  7. Thomas Witt

    This sounds exactly like taxation WITH representation. You know, what the founders fought for. What’s more, this was a tax that was apparently passed by a direct vote of those being taxed, not something imposed by bureaucrats or elected officeholders. Demands that it be passed by “100%” of the voters are ridiculous.

  8. Anonymous

    If there were 500 property owners in the SSMID district voting for the tax, and 251 of them voted for the tax, the remaining 249 that voted against the tax would not be exempt from paying the tax, and their property would be subject to county tax foreclosure sale if they refused or were unable to pay the tax.

  9. Larry Weber

    I understand the other side and it may be a case of glass half empty or half full but lets look at a few of the comments.
    WICHITATOR – You are correct a lien for non compliance could be enacted on by the County. We are all subject to obey the laws, be it pay taxes, comply with housing codes and ordinances, traffic laws, non smoking laws or whatever. Failure to do so carries penalties.
    ANONYMOUS – It was set up by a petition from a majority of the property owners. No is it not voluntary and the property owners cannot opt out. The SSMID can be dissolved by a majority vote of the property owners, same way it was enacted.
    No one is pulling the wool over the eyes.

  10. CRAIG

    The question to be answered is did the businesses realize they would see a TIF district extended over most of downtown thta would raise property taxes for some as much as 300% with little or no benefit. I wonder if the guy who owns the building at kellogg and market is happy with his huge tax increases and his almost always empty building.

  11. […] while structured as a non-profit corporation, is in effect a branch of Wichita city government. Its sole source of funds is property tax, except for some private fund-raising done last year for a specific […]

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