Public hearing Tuesday for arena TIF district

The Wichita City Council will take public comment Tuesday about a plan to expand a tax increment financing (TIF) near Intrust Bank Arena, the first hoop the city must jump through to get it passed. The clock starts ticking after the hearing, with Sedgwick County having 30 days to either give it the thumbs-up or thumbs-down.

The plan is the city’s second attempt to expand the TIF district. In August, Sedgwick County Manager William Buchanan sent a strongly-worded letter to interim City Manager Scott Moore saying the county could not support the district for four major reasons, including that every taxable downtown property was having some part of its county property tax diverted to the city to pay for city projects.

The city withdrew its plan, and city and county leaders met to come up with a compromise.

The new proposed arena area TIF district is about half the size of the one county commissioners shot down.

Sedgwick County Commissioner Dave Unruh said last week that if the plan unveiled Tuesday at the public meeting is much different from what county leaders agreed to, the county likely would not buy into it.

Street projects included in the agreement are: Emporia from Waterman to William; Topeka from Kellogg to Waterman; the Washington and Waterman intersection; William from Emporia to Commerce; and St. Francis from the arena to Douglas. Some of those streets would become two-way, some would get more parking, and most would get better lighting.

Under the plan, Sedgwick County would pay for roughly $9 million in projects, many of which will convert one-way north-south streets into two-way streets, or widen intersections. Those funds will come from the arena sales tax.

The city agreed to fund about $2 million in water and sewer projects.

Like all TIF districts, this one will take any increase in property tax payments and spend it on specific projects inside the tax district instead of distributing the tax money countywide.

The public hearing will take place during the council’s regular Tuesday meeting, which starts at 9 a.m. in the council’s chambers on the first floor at City Hall, 455 N. Main.

– Deb Gruver