THE IMPACT OF TAX INCENTIVES ON KANSAS CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
AND THE NEED FOR INCENTIVE REFORM
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Kansas City Public Schools is ranked 17 among 5,600 school districts in the level of abated property tax revenue
Abated from Kansas City Public Schools & charter schools in 2019
Abated from all the City’s school districts in 2019 by KCMO
Tax incentives can be a valuable tool for cities and states to attract and grow businesses and to promote redevelopment in distressed neighborhoods. However, without proper controls and oversights, they can also be harmful to communities due to the loss of potential public revenues.
In 2019 alone, more than $164 million of tax revenues were abated or redirected within Kansas City, MO.
While some of these tax revenues would not have been generated if the incentives were not granted, Kansas City, MO, offers longer terms of tax incentives (up to 25 years) and at higher levels (up to 75-100%) than most peer communities. This raises concerns that the City is over-incentivizing many projects, thereby diverting critical resources away from schools, libraries, infrastructure and other public services.
For example, if KCMO granted a business 25 years of property tax abatement to construct a new building, but it really only needed 15 years of abatement in order to make the project financially feasible, this means that schools, libraries and other public entities missed out on 10 years of tax revenues that could have helped fund school renovations, teacher salaries, mental health services, etc. Now think about this issue multiplied by hundreds of projects over the years.
KCPS, which has more than $400 million of deferred maintenance for its school sites, cannot afford to over-incentive private development. Therefore, KCPS is partnering with other local school districts to advocate for meaningful incentive reform (see below for our reform recommendations).
- Tax incentives are granted through seven different programs, making it difficult to monitor all the incentive activities, raising concerns about transparency and accountability.
- The City Council has the final say over what incentives will be granted for some programs (TIF, EEZ, 353, Ch100).
- For the others (PIEA, PortKC, LCRA), mayoral-appointed, non-elected boards grant the incentives.
- In many cases, these mayoral-appointed boards have granted up to 25 years of tax abatement even when the affected school district and other taxing entities (libraries, mental health fund, counties, etc) voice concerns or oppose the requested incentive level
- KCPS and other school districts have ZERO authority over decisions to grant property tax abatements
The Cooperating School Districts of Greater Kansas City, including KCPS, have identified several key incentive reforms that are needed to bring accountability, transparency and greater equity to economic development in Kansas City, Missouri.
These reform recommendations include:
- School districts and non-city taxing entities should have the ability to opt-in on projects seeking incentives in excess of 10 years @ 50%
- Ensure consistent and equitable process for all school districts (Process counts!)
- Reforms should apply to all incentive programs
- Implement targeted efforts to address barriers to eastside development
For detailed information on the above reform recommendations, please see the Cooperating School Districts of Greater Kansas City’s proposal.
In August of 2019, Kansas City Public Schools submitted a letter with incentive reform recommendations to the current City Council. To see that letter, please click here.
KCPS does not oppose the use of incentives. When incentives are used appropriately, everyone in the City benefits. But we do want to make sure that school districts and other taxing entities are partners in all decision-making that impacts our tax revenues.
Yes, some examples:
- Kansas: School Districts have to sign on to Tax Increment Financing (TIF) plans
- Ohio: School District approval is required for TIFs over 10 years @ 75%
- Louisiana: School Districts and other Taxing Jurisdictions must opt-in for incentives to be granted through their largest incentive program
- California: School district revenues are not impacted by Enhanced Infrastructure Financing Districts (cities must gain approvals from other Taxing Jurisdictions if they want to abate their tax revenues)
- Minnesota: two of three Taxing Jurisdictions (city, county, school district) must approve plans that last longer than 15 years
- Multiple other cities grant shorter abatement terms: Indianapolis, Chicago, Tulsa, San Antonio, Philadelphia, Omaha, Des Moines
Net Tax Abatement per Student for School Districts in KCMO in FY 18-19
- IMPACT: Urban school districts see their dollars abated at a higher level per student than suburban districts do.
- LOCATION: Within Kansas City Public School boundaries, the majority of projects receiving incentives have been in non-distressed areas. In addition, 92 percent of the abated property values within KCPS boundaries are West of Troost.
- PROCESS: KCPS and other taxing jurisdictions south of the river are not consulted in a meaningful way in evaluating incentive requests. Conversely, Northland School Districts are often brought to the table during negotiations. This often results in Northland Districts being able to secure lower incentive levels and/or higher payments for schools
- Park Hill School District’s payments from developers (e.g. PILOTs) were nearly 40 percent of the abatement level. North Kansas City School District’s payments from developers were more than 10 percent of the abatement level.
- For KCPS, it’s only 4.5 percent. For Hickman Mills, it’s only 2.2 percent.
To read more about KCPS’ concerns regarding equity and development, please see Superintendent Dr. Mark Bedell’s statement about a project seeking continued property tax abatement.
Net Tax Abatements By District Per Student and District Demographics (FY 18-19)
Incentives in the News
‘I say let them leave’: Kansas City rejects incentive deal labeled ‘systemically racist’ (Kansas City Star, June 2020)
Developers still pushing luxury hotel even as KC’s tourism market craters (Kansas City Star, June 2020)
Neighbors, schools say Cerner deal hasn’t met promise to revitalize south Kansas City (Kansas City Star, Nov. 2019)
KC invested $175 million in development subsidies in 2018. The return is a mixed bag. (Kansas City Star, Aug. 2019)
The new math in school finance (Good Jobs First, Dec. 2018)