The Wichita city council is set to vote today on creating a “Community Improvement District” with a 2% sales tax surcharge that would go towards paying for a new stadium for the Triple-A Wind Surge, home of the hideous mutant fly-horse chimera, and … frankly, I’m confused. The sales tax surcharge district has been described as part of the funding plan for the $77 million project (along with kicking back new sales and property taxes around the stadium) at least since last March, and the stadium is set to open in April, so what exactly happens if the council votes down the plan? Does the city need to come up with another funding stream? Do the Wind Surge owners threaten to dismantle the stadium and sell it for parts? Or is this just another case of a city seeking to subsidy a project that would happen with or without the subsidy?
I’ve reached out to the Wichita city council to ask what the deal is, but haven’t heard back. In the meantime, this is what we do know: The sales tax surcharge is expected to raise $13 million over 22 years, according to city officials, which would be a present value of around $8 million, less if most of the new sales tax revenue would come further down the road, which is likely. And the money would not only help pay for the stadium but somehow also “help pay for new growth nearby,” according to, uh, Eli the TV Guy, though he didn’t specify how. The Wichita Business Journal reports that the sales tax surcharge money would be “used for the design and construction of the stadium utilities, parking and other improvements related to the stadium, river corridor improvements and surrounding development on the west bank,” but that still doesn’t explain how the stadium itself will then be paid for, or what happens if the tax district isn’t approved.
More news if and when I get more information, I guess. But this is yet another example of the terrible state of journalism today: Wichita has a daily newspaper, a business newspaper, and multiple TV stations reporting on this story, and yet still Wichitans are getting next to no information about where their tax money is going or why. Stenography journalism has always been a blight upon the news world, but budget cutbacks are its oxygen — when you only have a handful of reporters and editors forced to cover everything under the sun, it’s way too tempting to say, “Enh, just write down what the city press release says, find one person on the street who likes it and one who doesn’t, and move on to the next story.”
Even the World Bank gets this, but for some reason they haven’t been interested in funding quality journalism in Wichita, so instead it’s left to you and me to shame the local news outlets into doing a better job. Is it working yet?