Testimony before the USD 259 Wichita Public School board regarding the Ken Mar TIF

From John Todd.

President Rogers, School Board Members, and Superintendent Libhart, I thank you for this opportunity to speak. My name is John Todd. I live at 1559 Payne in Wichita, Kansas, and I am opposed to the Ken Mar shopping center TIF that was created by the City of Wichita on August 12, 2008, and that you have the authority as the Board of Education for the Wichita Public School District USD-259 to reject as bad public policy for public schools and other local governmental units on behalf of the taxpaying citizens of this community.

County Commissioner Gwen Welshimer, who voted against this TIF when it was considered before the Sedgwick County Board of County Commissioners, advised me that her investigation into the $2.5 million dollar TIF revealed that HH Holding, LLC was the owner of the Ken Mar shopping center and that one of the HH Holdings owners was school board member, Kevis Harding. Commissioner Welshimer further advised that county records show that the HH Holdings group paid $2.215 million dollars for the shopping center, and that the group’s purchase of the property closed on April 2, 2008.

Is there any other concerned citizen here tonight besides me who is outraged by a real estate transaction with a purchase price of $2.215 million dollars that warrants a $2.5 million dollar cash contribution from the taxpayers of this community? Isn’t the Ken Mar transaction akin to having local government simply donating the $2.215 million dollar shopping center to the investors for free and then handing them $285,000 cash as additional boot from the public treasury? Does the Ken Mar TIF sound like a project that demands full public disclosure of Mr. Harding’s ownership interest in the Ken Mar project and his membership on the School Board?

In the interest of transparency, I would request the School Board bring the Ken Mar TIF project to a vote before the School Board tonight in the interest of full disclosure as to the relationship of a School Board member and the project, and also in the interest of full disclosure of the potential financial impact, if any, that taxes diverted away from the USD-259 mill levy participation in the Ken Mar TIF will have on Wichita Public Schools in particular, and/or on the school children of Kansas if this money is diverted away from the State of Kansas school funds.

A recent article in the Wichita Eagle reported that an estimated $73,000 per year over 15 years would be diverted away from the Sedgwick County treasury due to the Ken Mar TIF. And, since the Sedgwick County and the USD-259 mill levies are similar in size, where will the school mill levy portion of the TIF Bond payback be diverted from, local or state school funds?

I believe the stockholders/citizens of the USD-259 community deserve an answer to the questions I have asked tonight, and the answers need to be in an “on-the-record” format that only inclusion on the school board agenda tonight would provide.

Please help your constituents follow the money trail.

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