County approves financing for Wichita project

A tax district will help with downtown development

Sedgwick County commissioners have voted to approve a tax financing district for a downtown development project by the city of Wichita. 

The city is using a tax increment financing district to help with improvements along the west bank of the Arkansas River downtown.  The project will include a multi-use pathway for the Delano neighborhood and the renovation or reconstruction of Lawrence-Dumont Stadium as a multi use stadium for other sports, concerts and special events. 

The tax increment finance (TIF) district will collect increases in revenue from property taxes in the district to be used to help finance public improvements.   The city has also applied to the state commerce department for the use of STAR Bond financing, which would be supported by sales tax revenues in the west bank district. 

Commissioners had three choices, to consent to the district, to find that it would have an adverse impact on county revenues, or to take no action and allow the district to move forward.  

Commissioner Richard Ranzau felt the district would be harmful to the county, causing a loss of $11 million in revenue over the 20-year life of the district.  He talked about other TIF districts that have been approved in the past, but assistant county counselor Jon Von Achen said state law doesn't allow past districts to be a consideration.  He warned Ranzau that "you would go down a dark and dangerous path with that consideration." 

Commissioner Jim Howell said the county would still collect base taxes from the district, and it's only the growth in property tax revenue that the county would lose.  He said that was a small amount over 20 years, and he did not see an adverse effect on the county from the existence of the tax district. 

Commissioner Michael O'Donnell said he's very excited about the west bank project.  He said this gives the city an opportunity to do something different, and Wichita is a critical time when it needs to create a new identity and retain young people in the community.  He said having a project like this is great for the future of Wichita. 

Commissioners voted 4-1, with Ranzau voting no, to approve the tax district. 


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