The Self-Supporting Municipal Improvement District (SSMID) for downtown Kansas City, Kansas, on Thursday asked the Unified Government for an increased contribution.
At the UG budget meeting on July 19, Jason Norbury, executive director of the Downtown Shareholders and the SSMID administrator, asked the UG for a voluntary contribution of $125,000, up from the previous $100,000.
Tim Ryan, advisory board chair for the SSMID, said the $125,000 would allow for improvement of the pocket parks downtown. In the SSMID, property owners of the downtown district passed an effort several years ago to voluntarily increase their taxes to provide more cleanliness and security.
He said the cleaner and safer environment has led to increased sales downtown.
“I’ve honestly seen so much progress take place, I wouldn’t like to see us slide back any further,” Ryan said. “We want to accelerate things as fast as we can to continue the progress.”
The UG Commission on July 17 set the SSMID for downtown Kansas City, Kansas, maximum mill levy rate at 12 mills, higher than the recommended 11.02 mills, which allows the commission flexibility to change the recommended 11.02 mills.
Norbury said the SSMID contract with the UG requires the improvement district to submit a budget to the UG by May 15 of each year. The budget is based on property valuations, which are not final until June, he added. Norbury said the SSMID will work with the UG’s legal office to amend it so they don’t have to ask for a change to their May estimates every year.
Norbury said the SSMID based its figures on preliminary information from the appraiser’s office for the 11.02 mill request in May.
The assessments were higher than the original estimates, and a change at the old EPA building on Fifth Street, which was formerly privately owned and leased to the EPA, has affected the estimates, according to Norbury.
The University of Kansas Health Systems Strawberry Hill campus building, which is the old EPA building, will be coming off the tax rolls in 2019, he said. He added that KU Health Systems has also been supportive of making a contribution to the SSMID, although there isn’t a final amount on it yet.
The 11.02 mill levy would require the UG to make a $125,000 contribution to make the budget work, Norbury said. There was a $12,000 gap between what the staff recommended and the actual projected income.
“If the commission were to adopt our recommendation of $125,000 voluntary contribution, I believe it would allow the commission to lower the mill rate for the SSMID from the recommended 11.02 or last year’s 12.06 down to a mill levy of approximately 10.35 mills,” Norbury said.
If the commission chooses to go with the UG staff’s recommendation of $100,000, that would mean a mill levy would need to be about 11.65 mills to make it work, he said.
“We think the municipal improvement district has done a very good job over its existence,” he said. The UG Commission voted to continue it two years ago.
“We are proud of the work we’ve been doing, and the budget we’ve put forth allow us to continue that,” Norbury said.
The proposed budget allows them to continue the work, and to begin work on improving some of the public spaces and making downtown more inviting, he said.
The first project is a pocket park, and they are proposing to make some improvements to a little cutout area on the southwest corner of Seventh and Minnesota Avenue, he said. It will be a multi-year project, he added. The proposed budget from the SSMID will allow them to move this project forward while giving a 2-mill break to property owners from 2018 to 2019.
Mayor David Alvey said he understood that there was an agreement the UG had with the Downtown Shareholders SSMID, but the UG never fulfilled that agreement.
Norbury said the figure for the UG contribution originally was $150,000, and in a recessionary time from 2007 to 2009, the number dropped to zero. The UG Commission then raised it to $100,000, where it has remained for years, Norbury said.
Commissioner Melissa Bynum said if the UG’s financial staff works on the financial figures and agrees with the SSMID’s spreadsheet, Bynum would be supportive of the SSMID’s request.
The UG Commission plans another budget meeting after the Public Works and Safety Committee meeting tonight. The committee meeting is at 5 p.m. Monday, July 23, in the fifth floor, City Hall, 701 N. 7th St., Kansas City, Kansas.
Possible topics of discussion at the July 23 budget meeting are a capital maintenance improvement program update, including street preservation program, K-7 and Parallel, western fire station timeline, dedicated sales tax projects, Public Building Commission debt project with the juvenile project; as well as building security and the Kaw River levee.