Manhattan, Kan. - Manhattan Citizens for Sustainable Downtown Redevelopment announced Tuesday, June 3 that they are ready to circulate two ordinance petitions pursuant to Kansas Statute 12-3013.
The petitions were approved by the Riley County Attorney's office late last week. They kicked off the petition drive with a public forum at the Wareham Theatre.
Each petition offers a corrective step to the downtown redevelopment project. The first petition prohibits the City from providing or participating "in any funding, including but not limited to participation in STAR Bond funding, concerning the proposed Discovery Center." The Discovery Center is the "tourism attraction" in the City of Manhattan's STAR Bond application for the south end of the development.
"Manhattanites have consistently expressed skepticism about the long-term viability and sustainability of the Discovery Center. This petition will force the City to re-evaluate the south end development which has, like the north end, abandoned the vision which originally inspired the development and does little to protect or enhance our historic downtown," said Marilyn Caldwell, MCSDR chair.
The STAR Bond program allows municipalities to issue bonds to finance major entertainment and tourism projects and use the sales tax revenues generated to repay the bonds. It was instrumental in building the Kansas Speedway, Nebraska Furniture Mart, Cabela's and The Legends developments in western Wyandotte County.
The proposed Discovery Center is a small part of the south end project but enables the City to access STAR bond financing which the City hopes to use to build parking garages and other structures in the south end.
Prohibiting the development of the Discovery Center, which will have to be sustained long-term by local tax dollars, will effectively cause the STAR Bond application to be dismissed.
The second petition requires that the City submit to public vote the issuance of "any bonds or when it provides funds totaling $15 million or greater for any commercial, industrial, or retail construction on private property."
"We have studied the issue of TIF financing as it has been used in other areas around the country and one thing keeps coming to the forefront: the average taxpayer is left holding the bag. Commercial interests are subsidized by the municipal treasury over the needs of its citizens. We do not believe that citizens should do without basic services so a corporation can increase its profit margin," said Caldwell.
TIF funding has been a major concern for the organization. Each time a TIF district is established, the taxes from that district are used to retire the bonds issued for the district, thus removing taxes from the general tax fund. Given the long-term impact of such bonds on available income for the City and the concern that several other TIF districts may be proposed, MCSDR believes citizens need to have final approval of such efforts.
MCSDR will need to collect 1,583 signatures per petition. Once certified, the petitions will then be presented to the City Commission which then has 20 days to decide whether to pass the ordinances.
If the Commission does not approve the ordinances or takes no action, then the ordinances to be placed on the November ballot. Only registered voters within the city limits of Manhattan can sign the petitions.
People interested in signing or circulating a petition but could not be at Tuesday night's meeting, can contact MCSDR at ManhattanCSDR@gmail.com.