Overland Park Ward 4 and 5 City Council Candidates on the Issues: Tax Incentives


In early June, we asked our readers what questions you wanted to hear from the candidates running for the Overland Park City Council speech. Based on your feedback, we’ve developed a five-point questionnaire that addresses the issues most important to the people of Overland Park.

Each day this week, we’ll be posting contestants’ answers to one of the five questions. Read candidates’ responses to previously posted questions about affordable housing, policing transparency, climate change, and the smart seal. Here are the candidates’ responses to the fifth and final point:

The city’s use of tax incentives to attract business and stimulate new development has become the subject of much debate in recent years. What is your general opinion on the use of tax incentives? Should they ever be used for entirely new projects? Are there any tax incentive tools that you think should never be used? Why or why not?

Ward 4

Ty gardner

For a city like Overland Park, tax incentives should be quite rare. We have a highly educated workforce and one of the wealthiest populations in the region. These facts make us very attractive to business without having to spend taxpayer dollars to get them or keep them here. I would support the use of incentives when it comes to a project that would not happen without them and bring more value to the community than it costs. I would also support the use of incentives to attract key industries that will contribute to our future success. But my support for these incentives would be far more limited than what we have seen from the current leaders. What I am against are the hard and fast rules that say we should never use tax incentives or we should always use them. The reality is that tax incentives are a tool. When used correctly, they
can bring great value to the community. Just as we wouldn’t say you should never use a hammer because you might hurt your thumb, we shouldn’t dismiss tax incentives outright as a tool just because they’re not always effective. We should use them when it makes sense to our community. With a city like Overland Park, instances where that makes sense will be quite rare. But our leaders should not be afraid to act where it will benefit our City.

Stacie Gram (incumbent)

Stacie Gram Headshot

I support the prudent and judicious use of tax incentives as part of realizing the vision of ForwardOP, the city’s long-term plan for its future. Incentives are appropriate in certain circumstances. These include:

  • Attract a business that would not otherwise come to the city, if the business creates desirable jobs that generate additional tax revenue.
  • Improve an area that is not otherwise successful.
  • Provide necessary office space when supply is insufficient to meet demand.
  • Create a piece of equipment or a public space that we need but don’t have.

Cities across the country are using tax incentives as a tool to create exciting and innovative communities – the kind of communities that succeed because they attract businesses and families. Tax incentives are great tools for disaster areas, to be sure, but can also be used to upgrade areas like the Cherokee South Mall, build the Youth Sports Center at Bluhawk, or attract a large business center like the Sprint campus (now Aspiria). They should not be distributed too loosely or quickly, but with care and thoughtfulness and only when they are of real benefit to the residents of Overland Park.

Our city has benefited from the use of incentives in the past and may continue to be successful with them in the future. The use of tax incentives by Overland Park has resulted in consistent net income gains. Our professional municipal staff carefully structure all incentive agreements to protect taxpayer dollars. I commit to carefully reviewing each new proposal to determine whether it is suitable for tax incentives.

Scott mosher

It just has to stop! Developers should build here because it’s a great and safe place to live, work and play! We don’t need to give tax breaks for more office space (for example) as many office buildings are empty or businesses that would have moved here anyway to hear them talk. If we give incentives, maybe we will offer tax incentives to developers who renovate these empty office spaces in existing buildings. (Prevents scourge, teardowns) There may be a time when using this method to get businesses to OP is necessary, but not the norm as it appears to be. Yes, on a case-by-case basis. It’s too heavy for our budget.

We also don’t force developers to time goals and penalties, “understand” why those goals aren’t met, and be lenient. Why include them in tax freebies if we don’t hold them responsible. You can bet they keep the city at their word! The board does it over and over again! Say what you think and do what you say! Would love to look for dollars that the council / city have forgiven with deadlines and broken promises! It is taxpayers’ money missed due to non-compliance with agreements. Evaluate them and pay back the money on a contract basis or stop offering incentives in the first place.

Ward 5

Amy Goodman-Long

Tax incentives must be designed to achieve the general objectives of the City. Good examples of successful projects that took unsuccessful areas of OP and remade them, include Cherokee South Mall (95th and Antioch), Nall Hills Mall (95th and Nall), and Downtown Overland Park (which drew more than 800 new residents). As a general rule, one should avoid offering incentives for entirely new projects. Projects requesting incentives should be required to demonstrate with objective and unbiased analysis what they will bring to the residents of Overland Park and its surrounding neighbors. Given these standards, I believe that all incentive requests should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Sam Skip

I have looked at many tax incentives used by Overland Park over the past few years and have found that most of the investments have paid off. I think the facts show that these incentives were really investments and not giveaways. For example, the city may offer property tax incentives that result in an increase in sales tax, so the net impact is positive for the city. In addition, in these incentive contracts, the city protects us, as taxpayers, so that we are not at risk if the company does not meet its employment or growth forecasts. In the rare cases where companies did not meet their promised goals, these companies repaid the incentives through the clawback provisions required by the City. I think it would be a mistake to swear not to offer incentives to attract new business. I am in favor of continuing to review the incentives that have been proposed, to analyze the return on those investments, to require those who have received incentives to live up to what they have agreed to provide, and adjustment of incentive strategies as appropriate to ensure maximum investment income is accomplished. Finally, I want to touch on the topic of investments that should only be used in disaster areas… The absolute worst time to make an investment is when you are desperate. A healthy economy stays healthy. When you let an area deteriorate, you face an uphill battle to recover. It’s safe to stay on top of your game and keep improving each day rather than resting on your laurels and watching things slowly fall apart and then acting out of desperation.

Sheila rodriguez

Overland Park is clearly attractive to new and growing businesses. I think most business development will be done organically and without tax incentives. I am not against tax incentives if they are part of a larger strategic plan to revitalize a part of the city that is in need of revitalization or to fill a void / need that we have within our community, but I AM against giving tax incentives to commercial developers on multi-million dollar developments when it is to the detriment of our residents and / or our basic needs.

I believe in balanced development; however, reinvesting in our basic infrastructure and public services / facilities should be our PRIORITY. I want to preserve Overland Park and make sure it’s a great city that residents and business owners are proud of. I believe the glut of new commercial developments over the past few years is starting to erode the quality of life for residents. Like many of you, I recently lost several wonderful neighbors who have moved to Prairie Village, Leawood or Lenexa where they believe better value is offered. We can’t change things if we don’t recognize them, so make the necessary changes and retain the residents.

In the short term, the glut of tax incentives offered to business developers has had a negative impact on our budget and in the long term, could be detrimental to the financial health of our city. There should be enough money in the budget to adequately staff the number of first responders needed for a city our size, afford better streets, curbs and sidewalks, or add additional traffic lights as needed without increasing our taxes. Homeowners shouldn’t be penalized by contributing more money to a budget that appears to allocate more funds to developers than meeting the high expectations of our residents, business owners and visitors.

We need to change our priorities. We deserve better.

We arrive at Blue Valley!

The residents of Southern Overland Park have been asking for their own source of community information for years. And this fall, we’ll deliver it. If you want information on when the new Blue Valley Post will launch – as well as opportunities to share your thoughts on what we should be covering in the Blue Valley area, register here.

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