As campaign chair for Tax Fairness for All Wichitans, I’m very concerned that the campaign is accurate and truthful in everything it does. I insist on adhering to that standard, starting with myself.
Now that the Wichita Eagle has published its fact checking article (Fact-checking claims on the Ambassador Hotel vote), I can say that this goal has been met. While the Eagle took issue with one of my claims, upon closer examination, there really is no issue at all.
But the same can’t be said for the claims made by the “Vote Yes” side. That side of the issue is championed by a group named “Moving Wichita Forward,” managed by Sheila Tigert. While the Eagle article said there were “three instances where semantic liberties have been taken with the facts surrounding the development,” the article finds four problems.
Specifically, the jobs claim made by Moving Wichita forward “is a stretch,” according to the director of the Wichita State University Center for Economic Development and Business Research. The number claimed is grossly exaggerated.
Second, Moving Wichita Forward’s claim of “No new taxes” is refuted by the two cents per dollar Community Improvement District tax created for the hotel’s exclusive benefit.
Third, Moving Wichita Forward ignores the economic impact of the $7.3 million in tax credits the hotel is receiving. Taxpayers across Kansas ($3.8 million) and the entire country ($3.5 million) have to make up the missing tax revenue that was diverted to the hotel developer.
Fourth, Moving Wichita Forward “incorrectly frames the project’s return on investment for the city of Wichita.”
The Eagle took issue with my claim that Wichita’s Tourism and Convention fund is losing $2 million this year, and therefore needs revenue from hotel guest taxes.
The Eagle consulted Wichita assistant finance director Rob Raine, who disputed the claim of the loss. But to believe what Raine contends, you would have to suspend belief in the economic reality of events. You would also have to come to the realization that Wichita city budget documents can’t be taken at face value.
Dave Trabert, who is president of Kansas Policy Institute and has experience with accounting, left a comment to the Eagle article that explains. He wrote:
A little fact-checking of the city’s claims about its budget might be in order. Page 328 of Wichita’s 2012/2013 Annual Budget shows the following for the Tourism and Convention Fund:2012 Adopted: Budgeted Revenues $5,977,210 Budgeted Expenses $7,983,130 Budgeted Loss ($2,005,919) 2012 Beginning Fund Balance $2,400,664 2012 Budgeted Loss ($2,005,919) 2012 Ending Fund Balance $394,745
The City also budgeted for a $379,042 loss in 2013, which would bring the fund balance down to just $15,703.
The Vote No group is not misreading the budget as claimed by the city. If anything, the city is attempting to misguide the Eagle reporter. If the city isn’t going to lose money this year and next as budgeted, they should openly explain what costs are being eliminated or revenues added to make up the difference. Until then, citizens must reasonably conclude that the budget is accurate.
In a later comment Trabert added: “The city is also falsely claiming that reserves are ‘appropriated,’ implying that reserves are part of the $8 million in expenditures. Page 328 of the budget very clearly identifies the $8 million in budgeted expenditures and reserves are not part of that total. The budgeted $2 million net loss is deducted from beginning reserves as explained in my earlier post.”
The tourism and convention budget may be viewed on page 328 of this document: Wichita Adopted Supplemental Budget 2012-2013. An excerpt from the budget of the relevant page may be viewed at Wichita Tourism and Convention Fund Budget 2012 – 2013.
Wichita voters should not be mislead by Moving Wichita Forward, a campaign that is now shown to have little concern for being truthful.
More information about the election and its issues are at Wichita Ambassador Hotel information sheet and Fact checking the Wichita Ambassador Hotel campaign.