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New call for reform after failed taxing district repeal in Waldo

Posted at 10:15 PM, Jan 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-17 23:38:46-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  — A shopping center at 85th and Wornall recently became the city's latest council-approved community improvement district or CID.

A CID is a special taxing zone. In this case, the sales tax collected would go towards renovation of the center, which houses a Price Chopper and several other businesses.

"For the small amount it would be to bring in millions of dollars of private sector investment, I think that's why the council supported it," said Councilman Scott Taylor.

Not everyone was on board, which halted implementation of the district.

"How many sales taxes are we going to have to pay?" asked a frustrated Angie Lile, who works with the Kansas City Coalition for Economic Development Reform.

Lile started a petition trying to repeal the CID, but efforts fell short of the 3,417 signatures required.

Now she's turning her attention to something bigger: reform.

How CIDs Impact You

The easiest way to explain CIDs is through several trips to the grocery store.

41 Action News purchased milk and bread for about the same price at stores in three different neighborhoods. Here's how they stacked up:

Waldo: $0.29 in tax, or a rate of 6.1 percent
Northeast: $0.30 in tax, or a rate of 6.7 percent
Downtown: $0.34 in tax, or a rate of 7.7 percent

The downtown store had the highest tax rate because it has both a CID and a transportation development district (TDD) layered on top of each other. State law does not prohibit overlap.

The other two stores have just one CID in place.

Calls for Reform

There are more than 400 CIDs in Missouri and 75 in Jackson County alone.

One big criticism of the districts is that they don't require taxpayer approval.

"I think what needs to happen is we need to make sure all the people of a municipality are voting on these," said Patrick Tuohey, Municipal Director for the Show-Me Institute.

Tuohey explained limiting CIDs to collect only property tax is one solution.

"A CID that uses only a property tax really puts the cost on the shop owners. If it's something they feel strongly about, then it's something they should be able to agree among themselves to pay for," he said.

CID reform has become a bipartisan issue, with Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway issuing this report calling for more oversight.

"There is no law to ensure developers are accountable for the public dollars they receive and there are few requirements of the municipalities that approve these districts. State laws must be reformed to ensure taxpayers get the protection they deserve," Galloway said.

Last year, a Republican representative proposed a sales tax cap in Missouri, but it never made its way to the Senate for a vote. Kansas City leaders vehemently opposed the legislation.

Councilman Scott Taylor points to the redevelopment of the Red Bridge Shopping Center and the new Sun Fresh at Linwood and Prospect as major successes accomplished through CIDs.

Taylor added there will be few new CIDs moving forward because most of the city's neighborhood shopping centers have been renovated at this point.

For the Wornall Village CID, there were three public hearings.

"We need to be very careful when we approve it, and that's why we have multiple hearings," Taylor said.

The taxing district has not been implemented yet. According to Taylor, the redevelopment plan was held off the council docket when Lile launched her petition. The councilman does not know when the property owner will ask for it to be brought up again.

Although disappointed by the failure of the petition, Lile hopes council members will consider taking action to make CIDs more transparent.

"At least make it more of a buy in for the people who have to buy that tax and not just shove it down our throats," she said.