Archive for Business

Opinion column: Property owners concerned about rising property assessment

Opinion column

by Murrel Bland

More than 50 persons crowded into a conference room at the downtown Kansas City, Kansas, Area Chamber of Commerce office Friday morning, April 13. It was the monthly meeting of the Legislative Committee. One of the chief concerns among those attending was the very significant increase in commercial property values.

One “horror story” was that of a property owner in the Fairfax Industrial District whose value shot up from $300,000 to $750,000. The concern of this property owner and others with significant valuations is that they will have to pay substantially higher property taxes.

One such property owner said his increase could be the difference whether he would add any new employees.

When I first started to cover the Wyandotte County Assessor’s office in the 1960s, it was during the reign of Charlie Sugar, arguably the most powerful political and public office in town. I was told by longtime court house observers that the way to get your assessment lowered was to go into Charlie Sugar’s office with your checkbook.

When I was doing research for “The 50s in Wyandotte County” book, I reviewed the official records of county commissioners’ records. I found numerous examples of property valuation reductions due to “clerical error.”

Charlie Sugar controlled 30,000 Democratic votes and was on a first-name basis with national political figures including Jack and Bobby Kennedy.

Sugar’s political empire came tumbling down when a political gadfly from the Argentine community, Paulene Clifton, was a source of an investigative newspaper article in The Kansas City Star. That led to the election of a Republican assessor. However, he only served for one term. Julius Novak, a Democratic reformer, was elected assessor; his deputy was Norm Schoneman.

Along the way, the Kansas Legislature had the sense to change the law so that the assessor (we now call that person an appraiser) is appointed. The Wyandotte County Appraiser is nominated by the County Administrator and the County Clerk; he or she must then be approved by the Unified Commissioners.

Being appraiser is not an easy job. The appraisal staff is limited and not that well paid. It is a constant battle to keep property value in compliance.

Property owners have the right to protest their assessments. However, that takes time and can be expensive if a property owner has to hire outside counsel.

One of the important things that I expressed to the Legislative Committee is that although property values may increase, ultimately the amount that elected officials approve in dollars is what will affect tax bills. Elected officials need to hold the line on spending. Just because values jump up is no reason to run up spending.

The consensus at the meeting was that Kathy Briney, the Wyandotte County Appraiser for about the last three years, is doing a reasonably good job. She is accessible and professional.

Taxes you and I pay are the price we pay for a civilized society. I agree with that. I also believe that the power to tax is the power to destroy.

Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. He is the executive director of Business West.


Parts of Wyandotte County nominated for Opportunity Zone designation

Parts of Wyandotte County have been nominated for Opportunity Zone designation.

Six census tracts in Wyandotte County have been nominated by Gov. Jeff Colyer for Opportunity Zone designation.

According to a news release from the governor, the six tracts here are part of 74 throughout the state he is nominating for the economic development designation.

The Opportunity Zones are an economic development tool approved by the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, according to the news release. They will allow residents the opportunity to invest into their communities to stem population decline, lack of jobs and crumbling infrastructure.

Communities submitted a list of census tract nominees to the governor for his approval.

In Wyandotte County, census tracts 20209041800, 20209042200, 20209043905, 20209044101, 20209045100, and 20209045200 are on the approved list.

This includes some areas near I-70 south of State Avenue and north of the Kansas River; an area between Central Avenue and I-70; a downtown Kansas City, Kansas, area; and an area along the Rainbow Boulevard corridor near the University of Kansas Medical Center, with borders on the state line and county line.

According to the news release, for the investor, the Opportunity Zone program offers tax incentives to citizens who re-invest their unrealized capital gains into Opportunity Funds dedicated to investing in designated census tracts. The program provides deferral and reduction of capital gains taxes when the gain is invested in a Qualified Opportunity Fund and maintained for at least five years. Additional tax incentives are available for investments held for periods of seven and 10 years.

In February, the Kansas Department of Commerce announced it would begin accepting letters of interest from communities to have their eligible low-income census tracts designated as Opportunity Zones. Following the review of submissions, Gov. Colyer determined that each community that submitted an eligible census tract would be nominated for at least one Opportunity Zone designation. The governor has utilized the available 30-day extension from the U.S. Department of the Treasury to work with local leaders to complete the specific census tracts designated within each community.


KU has financial impact on region’s economy

Opinion column

by Murrel Bland

The University of Kansas has an annual budget of about $1.2 billion and an enrollment of 28, 447 on five campuses. It has a substantial impact on the Kansas City region’s economy.

That was the message that Dr. Douglas Girod, the KU chancellor, delivered Wednesday, April 4, at the annual meeting of the Kansas City, Kansas, Area Chamber of Commerce at the Kansas City (Mo.) Marriott Downtown. A reported 850 attended.

This meeting is usually held at the Reardon Convention Center in downtown Kansas City, Kansas; however, a scheduling conflict forced the chamber to look for another venue. The chamber used this opportunity to promote metropolitan cooperation. Both Mayor Sylvester James of Kansas City, Mo., and Mayor David Alvey of Kansas City, Kansas, made brief presentations pledging metropolitan cooperation.

KU’s main campus is in Lawrence; the medical center is in Kansas City, Kansas; and the Edwards Campus is in Overland Park. Other campuses are in Wichita and Salina.

Dr. Girod said only 18 percent of KU’s funding comes from state of Kansas public funds.

Dr. Girod said that the University of Kansas Health System has some 10,430 employees. The hospital became a quasi-independent organization in 1992 and is profitable. Last year the hospital had more than 44,000 admissions. In addition, the KU hospital has cooperative working agreements with St. Francis Hospital in Topeka and the Hays Medical Center.

The KU hospital recently purchased the former EPA Building in downtown Kansas City, Kansas. After extensive remodeling, the building will become a 47-bed psychiatric hospital. The remodeling is expected to last about a year and cost an estimated $61 million.

Dr.Girod cited the designation of the KU hospital as a National Cancer Institute. The approval of a recent application will result in an 11-percent increase in funding. This NCI designation is a cooperative effort with Children’s Mercy Hospital and the Stowers Institute, both in Kansas City, Mo.

Dr. Girod is a native of Salem, Ore. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of California at Davis and his medical degree from the University of California at San Francisco.

Dr. Girod is a member of several professional organizations including the American Head and Neck Society and KC Rising, an agency focused on long-term regional economic growth.

Dr. Girod is the third KU chancellor to have previously served as the chief executive officer at the KU Medical Center. The other two were Dr. Franklin Murphy and Dr. Clarke Wescoe.

Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. He is the executive director of Business West.