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SPOTLIGHT
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Subsidies questioned

Published on -6/28/2013, 9:47 AM

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An important issue is at hand that impacts the fairness of taxes that some pay and, in some cases, do not pay.

At a time when governing officials look to broaden the tax base, they face challenges to respect and be fair to those existing property taxpayers that end up subsidizing those in the 'for profit' sector, which in effect narrows the tax base.

Reflecting on a new policy proposal provided to the city commission on June 13, the topic of Rural Housing Incentive Districts will be examined for consideration of incorporating this as a section into the overall city economic development policy.

In a staff memo related to housing needs and efforts to reduce housing costs, the narrative in the cover sheet of the Housing Study Group, reported as, "reached the conclusion (hat housing issues in Hays have not manifested into discernible problems and there is no need for policy recommendations at this time."

In the work session agenda memo, page 167, the options listed are 1) Approve RHID policy as presented 2) Give staff further guidance and 3) Take no action.

It would be appropriate and, I believe many taxpayers would support, a "take no action." It appears to be very general and "for-profits" should be excluded from application. Commissioners Kent Steward and Henry Schwaller appear more sensitive toward concerns related on fairness to the taxpayers.

It is clearly evident that a for-profit special interest party named in the June 14 Hays Daily News story would like nothing better than a quick rubber stamp of approval. And if so, how soon can FedEx deliver an application before the ink dries?

I gather from their prior investment venture (and let me be a little loose with that term in view of the lessened risk taken) for the 32-unit Stonepost apartments on East Fifth, which did not have the benefit of long-term abatements. Valuation at the start was $1,184,870 with taxes paid at the early start at $16,000 -- but, in 2012, taxes were $10,149 on a reduced valuation of $790,300.

Pray tell, how did this happen? The trick of the trade is to protest and file an appeal with the local hearing officer, who in this case made the correct call to say "no" and when that fails you pack a violin, head east to the State Board of Tax Appeals and work the system under the guise of "revitalization," which usually only works for real depressed areas of a city. After singing a sad song, daddy gives back the candy. I really doubt any planning commission or board is going to see blighted property in any area near the medical center as merit for a revitalization approach.

Along the way, we are told that other communities like Dodge City and Garden City are doing this, as if their gullibility should set a standard or justification for taking the same path. Apparently, staff has recommended approval.

As an example of a true entrepreneur in the housing trade and there are others out there to be sure, a man named Wes Bainter of Hoxie happens to be in the midst of construction on his self-owned 32 units called Ellis Estates located at 33rd and Indian Trail in Hays. These units are independent living apartments for seniors with a taxable valuation that will stand at $2.1 million.

When asked why he chose Hays, he said he wanted to provide a service to senior citizens here and at six other similar communities. I didn't hear the words, "make money" or "make a profit." I heard clearly, "I'm not asking for tax breaks, and I don't want a government subsidy."

Next time, any community organizer from Washington says, "You didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen," I'll tell them that locally Wes Bainter Construction and Rans Aircraft owner Randy Schlitter did it without money from the taxpayers.

Guy Windholz

Hays

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