Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Quarterly Q & A With the Mayor

The Third Thursdays With the Mayor have been very successful.

Mayor Distler is now adding an additional opportunity for the citizens of Shawnee to meet face to face with the mayor and to exchange comments and ideas.

The first Quarterly Q & A with the Mayor is scheduled for Thursday, 3/31.

Here is the info as sent out by the city:

Join Mayor Michelle Distler this Thursday for the inaugural edition of Quarterly Q&A.

This event, which is free for all Shawnee residents to attend, is intended to get citizens engaged with their city government and learn more about what is going on in the community.

 Mayor Distler will provide a brief city update and then open it up to questions and comments from the audience.

Quarterly Q&A will be held on Thursday, March 31 from 7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. at Pizza West (5436 Roberts Street)
Mayor Distler is the first Shawnee mayor to set up so many venues where the citizens can interact with her about matters of concern to them.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Tax Lid Negative Impacts for Shawnee

It is estimated by using the last budget cycle that if the tax lid were in place then it would have resulted in between $400K-$800K of lost revenue. We have not had a mill levy increase in 10 years because we were able to capture property value growth, even during the recession. The needs in the community continue to grow as the city grows and we currently struggle to meet all of those needs in our existing budget. Additionally, by not allowing us to capture the growth once an incentivized project comes onto the tax rolls would kill us as it would be impossible to support the growth if we can’t capture the growth. Example, we like to have X # of police per capita. We build more commercial and homes out west but then are not allowed to capture the growth to grow our police,fire, and public works accordingly. If they want mill levy increases  to go to the ballot, fine, but don’t take  our valuation growth away from us.


Here are a few of them:


·         Our fire response times in Western Shawnee continue to grow (some areas are 10-12 minute response time).We NEED two new fire stations as is with national standards per capita and geographical size. At minimum, we will need to construct a new fire station in the northwest portion of the City soon.


·         Our residents continue to respond on the citizen satisfaction survey that they want better codes enforcement, particularly for rental properties. At this point, we have a predominantly complaint driven system. To be proactive on enforcement, we will likely need to hire additional staff.


·         We continue to struggle with funding the growing need for stormwater infrastructure maintenance in our community. While we have a Stormwater Utility Fee, it is also supplemented with $750,000 of General Fund Revenue. In the past few weeks we have had a storm water pipe on Holliday drive fail costing us a million dollars and one on 73rnd and Quivira costing us $250,000. These repairs have eaten up our entire budget for storm water leaving no additional funds for proactive maintenance to prevent these emergency failure repairs.


·         Our Police Department is looking to implement body cameras. As you know this is a best practice in the profession and something community members and even legislators are wanting cities to move towards. There are significant costs to implementing their use. This cost comes from not only on the cameras themselves, but the retention and review of data.


Finally, there is something to be said about the uneven playing field everyone will find themselves in when the cap goes into place. For example the current mill levy in Shawnee is 24.536 and each mill is worth about $768K. The mill levy in Lenexa is 31.807 and each mill is worth $975K. As you can see the revenue difference is quite significant. This is not to say one community has too high of a mill levy, but it just demonstrates the disparity of revenue communities will be locked into.


They don’t like the Feds telling them what to do but they want to tell the cities what to do who provide the most impactful daily services to the residents. Their budget is an absolute mess and we are a nationwide laughing stock on Seth Meyers and other shows. The city has a very conservative and responsible budget and bond rating, they do  not., They are so far in  debt they will never see daylight. are they wanting to put us in the same mess they are in? Not only do none of them understand local government, none of them bothered to respond to, or reach out to the local governments they claim to represent to understand the impact. Instead, they don’t allow for input and pass bull s**t under cloak and dagger in the middle of the night.
The ONLY reason they did it was because they raised the largest sales tax in history and had to save political face by putting a lid on us!! That way they can say yeah we raised your sales tax BUT we stopped your property tax. It was a complete political and self serving move. NOT what's BEST for the communities they represent!
Add to that, State Sen Mary Pilcher-Cook voted against the emergency personnel exemption to the tax lid and State Rep Brett Hildebrand voted against the mutual aid bill.
What is going on?





Friday, March 18, 2016

Shawnee Needs to Get Paid Back

This past Monday I spoke at the council meeting regarding claw backs.  Claw backs are the monies that municipal governments can get back from various tax incentives.

I am looking for these under two specific situations.  First, when a developer sells a property, makes a profit, the city should be able to get back its investment, like other investors in the project.  The other situation is when a developer fails to meet the terms of the incentive package.

Now, before I proceed further, let's clarify two things.  I am in favor of developers being able to make a profit on their investments.   I just feel that the city (our taxpayers) are entitled to their fair share.  Next, there is a place for incentives to get certain projects going.

What got me really going (and upset) was the sale of 10 Quivira Plaza.  The developer made such a high profit that even the Executive Director of our Economic Development Commission indicated that it made the property one of the highest valued ones of its kind in JoCo.  A portion of the redevelopment was covered by a CID sales tax.  This is a sales tax increase, levied for a specific amount and time to assist the developer in their project.  What happened?  The developer made their money, which they are entitled to.  But, unlike any of their other investors the City of Shawnee did not get a return on its investment.  In reality, according to information received from the City Manager the increased sales tax amount will be around for another 6-7 years.  It will end earlier than planned as the max amount appears to be on track to be attained earlier than the original period allotted.  So, the developer made their money, but our citizens are still paying a higher sales tax at that shopping center.  And many customers that shop there are some of our older, retired, on a fixed income residents.

After I spoke, Councilmember Pflumm did request that the city manager have staff look into how we can go about recouping these funds on future projects.

I think we need to look at recouping funds from the profits of these projects being sold.  Then we can work on getting back our money from projects that don't comply with the terms of the incentive packages.

And, if anybody says that an incentive is not an investment, they need to grab a Merriam-Webster's dictionary.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Which Way Will Vaught Swing?

Councilmember Jeff Vaught never ceases to amaze me.  One thing though, he keeps my research skills up.

A few weeks ago there was an item before the council.  I'll keep it simple. There was an item in the International Building and Residential codes concerning fences around swimming pools and the use of some new high tech pool covers.  These high tech covers (which run in the thousands) are mechanical and supposedly can support substantial weight.  The international codes basically said if a homeowner had one of these high tech covers that fencing was not required.  Some members of the council still wanted fencing.  Vaught, in his infinite wisdom said that since hundreds of experts had worked on these codes that we should go with their decision.

Now, let's back track to December of 2012.  There were some (5) items up for review that appeared in these international codes.  One pertained to protection from roof ice dams (ice barrier) and the other protection of wood I-joist floors (fire protection).  Now our fearless expert of all things construction thought we didn't need those.  Part of the argument was based on what it would add to the cost of constructing a new home.  But wait a minute, hundreds of experts worked on these but I guess in this case he knew better than them.

It's really nice how the arrogant one can pick and choose when he wants to use the combined knowledge of these hundreds of experts.  Guess which way he swings on these issues depends on who he wants to endear himself to.  How do we spell opportunist?