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County vetoes Peabody TIF district

Staff writer

Marion County Commission rejected the City of Peabody’s proposed tax increment financing district Monday. Commissioners expressed concerns about the complexity of the issue, the length of commitment required, and whether TIF districts would get out of hand.

The city approved creating the district Dec. 13, and the county and USD 398 Board of Education were given 30 days to protest. The tax district would have aligned with the historic downtown district. TIF districts allow a city to collect increased property tax revenues created by development within the district — including other government entities’ share of the increased taxes — and use them to defray expenses of development.

Commission Chairman Randy Dallke said he appreciated how direct the city was in its proposal. City officials met with the commission and USD 398 to discuss the matter during the protest period. He added that helping cities create a positive business environment is one of his goals as a commissioner.

Commissioner Dan Holub said he was nervous about approving the district. He referred to a handbook relating to economic development tools by the League of Kansas Municipalities that describes tax increment financing as one of the most complex tools available.

Holub said the TIF statute was intended for big projects, such as a racetrack in Kansas City; projects that involve a lot of expense to one city but benefit a greater area. He said he didn’t see such a situation in Peabody.

Future TIF districts in other cities posed another concern for Holub. If commissioners approved one TIF district, how could they reject plans in other cities, he asked rhetorically. The commission would either give some cities an unfair advantage, or they would allow TIF districts to spiral out of control, he said.

“I don’t think the TIF program is the answer,” Holub said.

Dallke agreed, saying there were too many unanswered questions for that heavy of a commitment.

Commissioner Roger Fleming was absent from the meeting. He was sworn in earlier in the meeting but left afterward because of a death in his family.

Employees get 1.75 percent raise

Commissioners approved a 1.75 percent pay increase for full-time county employees. Commissioners budgeted a 2 percent raise for 2011 but didn’t include longevity raises.

Providing 2 percent raises and longevity raises would have put the county about $7,000 above the budgeted amount for salaries, Deputy County Clerk Tina Spencer said. A 1.5 percent raise plus longevity raises would have created a surplus of about $14,000.

With longevity raises, the 1.75 percent raises would put the county about $3,500 below the budgeted amount, Spencer said.

Dallke said he didn’t want to approve raises greater than 1.5 percent.

“Just because I build a budget doesn’t mean I want to spend it all,” he said.

Holub argued in favor of the 1.75 percent raise.

“When the cities were giving out 2, 3, and 4 percent raises, we didn’t do squat,” he said.

With Holub’s assurance that each year would be judged separately, Dallke relented and agreed to the 1.75 percent raise.

In other business:

  • Commissioners observed a moment of silence in remembrance of six people killed in a shooting Saturday in Tuscon, Arizona.
  • Holub said he would ask Sheriff Rob Craft to ask architects who worked with the jail committee to give cost estimates for the jail designs they proposed.
  • The county will donate $50 for a Relay For Life team sponsorship. Money for the sponsorship will come from the profits of a soda machine in the courthouse.
  • Ashley L. Friesen was hired as payroll clerk in the county clerk’s office, with a starting salary of $2,752 per month.
  • The county’s property, general liability, and automotive insurance premiums increased from about $103,000 to $115,496 for 2011 through insurance company EMC.
  • Konica Minolta Business Solutions will sell the county appraiser’s office a copy machine for $9,588. McPherson Business Solutions bid $9,275, but if commissioners had accepted that bid, the county would have owed Konica Minolta about $800 for the loaned machine the department has been using.
  • Three of five property owners who took advantage of a program waiving transfer station fees for demolition debris rebuilt on the same property, Planning and Zoning Director Tonya Richards said. Commissioners renewed the program for 2011.
  • Commission met in closed session Jan. 5 to interview candidates to direct the Communications Department. They met with three candidates for a total of about three hours.

The next commission meeting will be Tuesday because Martin Luther King Jr. Day is Monday.

Last modified Jan. 12, 2011

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