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Kansas City, in particular Mayor Pro Tem Cindy Circo, saw the Winchester TIF's leftover $11 million as just right for building seven soccer fields and expanding a training facility that Sporting Kansas City uses there.
It's true that Swope Park's public soccer area could use some work. The grounds are rutted, uneven surfaces that turn to muddy ruins when it rains, and parking often exceeds capacity in good weather.
But the Raytown Quality Schools bristled at Kansas City's plan. Of the $11 million that KC sought to use, $4 million was tax revenue generated within the Raytown school district's boundaries, where more than half the students live at the poverty level. KC's plan would have steered Raytown's $4 million to an improvement that was inside the Kansas City Public Schools' boundaries. Officials with Mid-Continent Library and Jackson County didn't find the plan too appealing, either, and discussion of the Winchester-soccer TIF was long and contentious.
The TIF Commission is made up of six people whom Kansas City Mayor Sly James appoints, with five other members representing Jackson County, the Raytown school district and the library district. Those taxing jurisdictions wanted to put off a vote on the soccer plan until early 2013, and they found an unexpected ally in Rhonda Holman, the only one of James' appointed commissioners willing to delay. (Her unexpected vote caused some officials to joke about whether she'd turned off her phone, a reference to James' practice of keeping signed, undated resignation letters from all of his appointees.)
The delayed vote was followed in December and January with prolonged negotiations between Raytown Quality Schools Superintendent Allan Markley and James. (See "Un-TIF'd: Raytown's school superintendent earns a rare victory against TIF," April 11, 2013.) Eventually Kansas City backed down, gave Raytown its money and terminated the Winchester TIF.
Missouri state Sen. Will Kraus noticed the wrangling. The Lee's Summit Republican used the occasion to champion TIF reform in Jefferson City.
"Kansas City did the right thing and did not build the soccer park with the TIF money," Kraus tells The Pitch. "But that builds up a concern with how TIF dollars are used."
Kraus' bill, which would have let school districts and other taxing jurisdictions opt out of having their tax revenues used for TIF, got a hearing during this legislative assembly but didn't make it much further.
While the end of the Winchester TIF meant that the Raytown school district got its money back, Kansas City and Jackson County struck a deal to use their surplus revenues from the TIF to build the soccer project.
They also agreed to put $2.4 million toward long-awaited neighborhood improvements. But the money isn't buying what some of Swope Ridge's residents thought they'd been promised.
The first agenda item on the April 18 Swope Ridge Neighborhood Association's meeting: May's election of a new association president and other officers.
But the 18 residents who showed up at the International Association of Fire Fighters Local No. 42 meeting hall weren't in a waiting mood. On this foggy, gloomy evening, talk quickly turned to making sure that Patricia Losiewicz, president for the past year, could, effective immediately, serve another year — or at least until the Winchester matter was over.
That measure passed unanimously.
The month before, Losiewicz spent a day of vacation time at City Hall, attending a meeting of the Kansas City Planning, Zoning & Economic Development Committee. On that meeting's agenda: the TIF Commission's blessing of the Soccer Village compromise.