Fire district chief says Logistics Park tax abatements are hurting the department

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OLATHE, Kan. —Thursday Fire Chief Dennis Meyers presented the Johnson County Board of Commissioners with a breakdown of the proposed 2022 budget for Fire District #1. 

New legislation that went into effect this year requires taxing districts in Kansas to notify the public when it intends to exceed a revenue neutral rate. 

Meyers said Fire District #1  cannot maintain the same level of service with a revenue neutral budget, because of tax abatements on new construction putting a strain on the district funding.

As the southern portion of the county continues to develop, roughly 41 percent of the service area growth in Fire District #1can be attributed to new construction. 

During his presentation to the commission, Meyers pointed to a series of new developments coming to southern Johnson County, of which he says developers have been granted tax abatements.  Meyers said the tax abatements are putting the district under additional stress. Those proposed developments include: 

  • 2,500 new homes to be built in the city of
    Gardner
  • 4.6 million square feet of warehouse development near New Century Airport 
  • 8.5 million square feet of warehouse development, in addition to the current 16 million square feet of warehouse space at Logistics Park Kansas City (LPKC) 

“As a fire district or a fire department we can’t put our hands up to those businesses and those people who work there and say ‘hey by the way don’t have a fire for 10 years or don’t get hurt for 10 years,” Meyers said. “That’s when we will have the money and the fire stations to come out and protect you. We have to do that right now and that burden falls on the rest of the fire district.” 

Based on agreements with the City of Edgerton, developers are required to make payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) when receiving a tax abatement for a building within LPKC. For example, NorthPoint Development is required to make PILOT payments to the city, state and county throughout the abatement. Per terms of that agreement, the developer will pay $0.16 for every square foot warehouse space. Each development contract and PILOT amount is set by the city council on a case-by-case basis. 

Meyers said the department receives approximately $375,000 annually in PILOT payments. After reviewing the budget, Meyers said his team put together a 20 year projection for Logistics Park. 

“That same intermodal area that’s on the books today, if my numbers are correct, that really would equate to $2.5-$3million worth of tax revenue just for the fire district,” Meyers said.  

A main focus in the 2021 budget has been in building a new fire station to service Logistics Park Kansas City (LPKC). Construction on that station is expected to be complete by December. 

The commission unanimously approved the budget for Fire District #1. The $7.4 million 2022 budget will cover the cost of supporting 53 full time employees, seven fire trucks and four stations within Fire District #1. 

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