Category Archives: government

SBA office to move to the Garvey Center using new streamlined design process

Wayne Bell, district director of the Small Business Administration.

WICHITA — The government is better known for red tape than streamlined processes, but the General Services Administration is working on that, and a change in offices for the Small Business Administration is going to offer something of a test case.

The SBA’s Wichita district office is moving from 271 W. Third St., where the IRS is, to the Page Court Building at the Garvey Center at 220 E. Douglas.

Before the move can happen, there has to be a design phase, which could determine everything from the tint of the windows to security systems in the new office.

“Normally, the process would take … 60 days or more,” says Wayne Bell, the SBA’s district director.

The GSA has a new design intent drawing process that will convene everyone involved in the move — contractors, designers, the SBA, the GSA, a representative for the landlord and anyone else connected with the project.

“You’re going to have all of the players in the room,” Bell says. “With this approach, everything should be complete within a three-day timeframe. It’s a really, really good idea.”

The old way of doing things involved sending drawings to the GSA, then the SBA, which would make changes before sending it back to the GSA. Then the contractor would get the drawings after a protracted period.

“So it could take months,” Bell says.

The design intent drawing creates a condensed timeframe where there’s an on-the-spot rough draft of the SBA’s needs that gets refined immediately with everyone present.

“This is very new,” Bell says. “So it’s going to be kind of an on-the-job learning process.”

The meetings will take place over a three-day period in late October at the Wichita Downtown Development Corp.’s design innovation center.

“What we try to do in that space is make resources available,” says WDDC president Jeff Fluhr.

That includes conference calling and video conferencing.

“We’re thrilled they’re willing to take the opportunity,” Fluhr says of the SBA and GSA. He says the attitude is “let’s walk through it and see what we learn from it.”

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“The legislators, they’re like, ‘Send me to the orthodontist first,’ or, ‘Send me to the dentist without any painkillers.’ ”

— Gov. Sam Brownback, speaking Friday at a Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce forum about the enthusiasm of Kansas legislators for the upcoming debate on school finance reform

Kansas Court of Tax Appeals substantially raises fees for commercial property owners wanting to appeal property tax valuations

UPDATED — Commercial property owners who want to appeal their property tax valuations now have something else to complain about.

The Kansas Court of Tax Appeals in Topeka today voted to change the filing fees for those appeals after the Legislature slashed its funding earlier this summer.

“We now have the highest filing fees in the nation for commercial tax appeals,” said lawyer Jim McIntyre.

Fees have doubled, tripled or gone even higher. McIntyre said a lot depends on the number of parcels within a property and what county it is in.

What used to cost, say, $125 to appeal now might cost $1,600 due to the number of parcels, he said.

“It’s going to be a mess.”

He plans to file a lawsuit against the state this week to stop the fees from taking effect.

“A lot of people have a lot of money at stake here,” McIntyre said.

According to Sedgwick County, there were 3,618 appeals of commercial property taxes in 2010.

Since January, there have been 522, all of which required fees.

Until a few years ago, the entire budget for the Court of Tax Appeals came from the state’s general revenue fund and property owners didn’t have to pay to contest their valuations.

In recent years, the majority of the budget still came from the state, and commercial property owners made up most of the rest with filing fees.

Now, commercial property owners will fund about two-thirds of the court’s budget.

“What it does, it restricts access to the courts,” said Jim Hudson, co-owner of Tax Adjustment Specialists, which is one of several Wichita-area companies that help commercial and some residential property owners appeal their taxes.

For small tax issues, he said, the increased fees will mean “it’s just no longer feasible to take those cases.”

Hudson said $25 is about the most commercial property owners have to pay in other states in this area.

“In fact, most of the surrounding states don’t charge anything to file,” he said.

All Kansas property owners — residential and commercial — can make an informal appeal to their county appraiser’s office through a hearing for no fee.

The next level is a small claims division of the Court of Tax Appeals that’s generally used for residential property appeals.

The highest level for appeals is to the judges with the Court of Tax Appeals.

Residential property owners generally don’t have to pay anything to appeal their property taxes unless they take it to the highest level of the court, which isn’t as common as taking it to the small claims division.

That’s part of why McIntyre is filing the suit.

“They’re treating commercial taxpayers worse than residential taxpayers — far worse,” McIntyre said.

He said the suit will allege denial of federal constitutional rights of due process and equal protection.

He said the new fees also violate the state Constitution’s classification scheme in which commercial properties are taxed at 25 percent of their fair market value and residential properties are taxed at 11.5 percent.

“In my opinion, that classification requires that residential . . . homeowners pay based on a proportion of use,” McIntyre says. “That prohibits the Legislature from setting the filing fee at zero.”

McIntyre says that companies asking for industrial revenue bonds or that groups, such as churches, asking for tax exemptions also will have to pay significantly more.

McIntyre says he’ll name Gov. Sam Brownback in the suit.

“Brownback says he’s a big supporter of business, yet the people being gouged here are businesses,” McIntyre said. “The bigger the commercial taxpayer, the more they’re getting gouged.”

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You don’t say

“I want to know what 12 people out of 100 think we are doing a good job! They’re out of their mind.”

— Republican Rep. Lynn Jenkins, commenting today at the Kansas Independent Oil and Gas Association annual meeting about a recent poll that showed 12 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services may take 13,000 square feet of former Davis Furniture space in Delano

UPDATED — A deal is close for a new tenant in the former Davis Furniture space, and it’s as unlike a country-and-western bar as it can be.

It looked like there was a done deal earlier today, but it’s not finalized yet. If it happens, though, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services would take 13,000 square feet in the building.

“You know, it’s not glamorous, but it’s a really vital part of government resources,” says Chris Ruffin, director of real estate for his father Phil Ruffin’s Ruffin Properties.

Chris Ruffin says an Immigration Services lease would mean a lot for Delano, too.

“It’s a big deal,” he says. “It saves that derelict building. It’s been an eyesore in Wichita for a really, really long time.”

The Ruffins plan to heavily invest in the property, where they once planned a bar, before Immigration Services would move in.

“The building’s going to look spectacular,” Chris Ruffin says. “It’s not going to look like a government building per se.”

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You don’t say

“I find it quite irritating that the clowns in Washington are continually talking about creating jobs but then actions hinder job creation.”

Jeremy Horn of Wichita Brewing Co & Pizzeria in an e-mail on how a government shutdown would delay the hiring of more than 20 people for his new restaurant at 13th and Tyler because federal employees who approve beer brewing wouldn’t be at work

You don’t say

“I came to show them I’m alive.”

– Private investigator Emery Goad, quoting a man he stood in line with outside a Social Security building in Wichita who was told by the government that he wouldn’t receive any more money because he’s dead

Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce cancels issues forum after calls of complaint

WICHITA — The Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce has canceled a federal issues forum it planned for April 19 in response to complaints from its members and U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt’s office.

“We’ve been well communicated with,” says Sam Williams, chamber chairman.

“It’s a political year, and we didn’t probably pay enough attention to the political ramifications.”

The chamber invited U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran to speak at the forum.

Moran and Tiahrt, both Republicans, are running against each other for U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback’s seat.

Williams says the forum is meant to be a nonpolitical gathering to discuss issues in Washington that affect local businesses.

“We thought this was going to be pretty interesting just because of all the health care stuff going on,” Williams says.

With the pressure that everyone is under these days, though, he says, “Things that maybe in the past wouldn’t have been so important just get overblown.”

The forum will be rescheduled, but neither Moran nor Tiahrt will be at it.

“Bottom line?” says Todd Novascone, Moran’s chief of staff. “As of yesterday or the day before, we are disinvited.”

Regarding Tiahrt’s office, Novascone says, “I don’t want to use the word arrogant . . . but I’ve never seen pressure like that. It just kind of really shocked me.”

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