Kansas City, Kansas, Mayor David Alvey called for the community to “double down on neighborhood rejuvenation” in his second State of the Government address on Tuesday.
The speech was at the Reardon Convention Center in Kansas City, Kansas, and the Rotary Club was the host.
Alvey stated the mission of the Unified Government is to improve the quality of life for citizens and businesses.
“That quality of life is most directly impacted by the quality of neighborhood-based services,” Alvey said.
Finding ways to provide those services in an affordable way is the challenge. The Unified Government has reduced the Kansas City, Kansas, property tax rate about 15 percent over the past three years, moving Kansas City, Kansas, from once having the highest property tax rate of among the state’s largest cities to number 13 out of 25.
“How do we bring necessary services to citizens to improve the quality of life in a manner that is fiscally sustainable? The answer is to continue to broaden and diversify the tax base. We must double down on neighborhood rejuvenation,” Alvey stated.
Alvey pointed to several positive signs:
Population is slowly growing.
Overall crime has decreased 11 percent citywide and as much as 28 percent in some neighborhoods.
New homes are being built or remodeled across the city.
Dozens of once vacant, tax delinquent homes are being renovated through the Land Bank Rehab program and sold to citizens.
The $155-million Turner Logistics Center project will rebuild the I-70 – Turner Diagonal interchange, add up to 2 million square feet of distribution-warehouse space and create 1,800 new jobs.
The former Indian Springs site is moving toward redevelopment as a $100 million “Foodie Park”.
The American Royal will break ground on its multi-million dollar complex in western KCK next year.
The Police Athletic League is serving 400 kids in the long empty St. Mary’s Church downtown.
Mayor Alvey concluded his address with a pledge.
“We will continue to move forward to improve the quality of life of residents who live, work and play in KCK and Wyandotte County, who go to school here, who invest their lives and families here… by opening our hearts and minds to all who come here, by seeking ways to serve the needs of one another, and by doing the small things well and simply always working to improve the quality of lives of our citizens.”
The mayor’s speech is on YouTube, is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqnLoV3LBD8
Questions and answers with Mayor David Alvey:
What was the most important message today?
The most important message is the fundamental challenge of any government is to try and always improve the quality of life for citizens, and that means more and better services, and at the same time, in the most affordable way, the least burden on citizens.
We have lots of challenges, vacant structures and lots, whole areas of town that have been hollowed out, it’s difficult to provide the tax revenues to provide services everywhere.
Lots of people are providing good services across the community to make it better.
The big development is the American Royal within a year, and Scavuzzo’s (at Indian Springs), we hope it will happen, there are lots of good signs. All the fundamentals are there.
I think we have to double down on neighborhood services, change people’s experience where they live, (making neighborhoods) more beautiful and livable.
That’s how a good city grows, it’s incremental, slow growth, (we’re going) to keep plugging away at it.
What will the UG do specifically to help neighborhood rejuvenation?
We’re already doing it. The SOAR initiative is a very important part of that. First of all, getting a very good handle on all the vacant structures, keeping them mowed, as soon as it goes vacant, get in there, board it up, get it into the tax sale if it is tax sale eligible.
There is also a program, if no one picks it up (in the tax sale), the UG picks it up and rehabs it. We had 31 (houses) in the last year, there’s 44 more in process. Another $1.2 million in assessed valuation.
There are plenty out there to keep that going.
As long as economy continues to move forward, the downtown is accessible to the area and just a good fundamental location.
The fundamentals are good, we’re going to keep chugging along, it’s incremental growth, we’ll keep bringing more and more people in.
People sometimes shy away from KCK because they do not believe they’ll make any money, but we’ll just keep growing.
Is the UG facing any new economic challenges this coming year?
Nothing we haven’t seen already before. The only thing recently was a wall that holds up the culvert where drainage goes into the Kaw River at Turkey Creek. The wall there collapsed and the UG had to fix that. We bonded that. A significant project, $7.5 million, could easily become $25 million if it deteriorates more. Those kinds of things happen.
Then our pension obligations, there are a lot of people retiring, we have to meet those. It’s kind of a weak percentage of funding for our pension plan. Again, we have money in reserves. We’re going to come through it, but it’s going to draw the most funds.
Some of the residents don’t perceive a tax reduction because their home valuations have gone up in the past few years. What would you tell them?
Of course, we need the revenues to increase because our expenditures go higher just by inflation, and we have a lot of commitments. The revenues are necessary, and we reduced the rate. It could be far worse if the UG had not reduced the rate. It would be terrible to see no growth. The whole point today is we’ve got to grow revenues. We have so much undervaluation, we need to shift that. People think they should see net decreases in taxes, but there’s no standard amount for taxes, each government has its own issues and things it has to finance. We have a very comparable mill levy, 13th of the top 25 in the state, but we do need revenues. We need property values to increase, for revenues, to do services. We don’t want to increase the tax levy, but we do need to increase tax revenues.
Will new developments help?
Always. Even when they come on line after we give the incentives. The incentives age out.
What is the most important message you could say about the future of KCK and Wyandotte County?
The future of KCK is all dependent upon whether all of us realize that it’s hard work to make things better, it requires sacrifices. We have to make sure the cause is worth it. If we make it better, then it was worth it. That’s how we’ve always grown, and that’s how we will continue to grow.
Mayor Alvey’s State of the Government speech will be aired again in future days on UGTV, (Spectrum channel 2, Google Fiber channel 141).