All posts by Bob Weeks

Job growth in Wichita: Great news?

A tweet from a top Wichita city official promotes great news that really isn’t so great.

Click for larger.
The @WichitaEconDev Twitter account is managed by Scot Rigby, who is Assistant City Manager, Director of Development Services for the City of Wichita. Its tagline is “Promoting, building and preserving Wichita’s economic strength to ensure Wichita is the preferred location for new, existing and expanding organizations.”

The tweet observes “great news” in a Wichita Business Journal article reporting on an employment forecast. Wichita jobs are seen to grow in 2019, according to the forecast.

But the Business Journal article didn’t provide any useful context. Once we learn more about what the numbers in the forecast mean, we may want to temper our enthusiasm.

The forecast for Wichita metro area employment in 2019 calls for modest growth of 0.9 percent, according to the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University. 1 This follows growth of 0.8 percent in 2018. 2

Nationally, the economy is expected to continue strong growth. 3

The nearby chart illustrates that since the end of the last recession, job growth in Wichita has been below job growth in the nation as a whole. Generally, job growth in Wichita has been at about half the rate of the nation. In 2017, Wichita lost jobs.

Click for larger.

Of Wichita job growth in 2018, the CEDBR forecast notes, “This marked a return to the level of growth experienced in the Wichita area from 2012 to 2016, after experiencing a contraction in overall employment in 2017.” The average annual rate of job growth for those years in Wichita was 0.83 percent. It was 1.82 percent for the nation, which is 2.2 times the rate for Wichita.

CEDBR also notes, “Wichita’s unemployment rate declined throughout 2018 to a low of 3.5 percent in October 2018, the lowest unemployment rate for the area since 1999.” We should note that this decline is primarily due to a declining labor force in Wichita, rather than robust job growth.

Back to Rigby’s tweet: There is good news — Wichita is not forecast to lose jobs, as it has in the recent past.

But the rate of growth seen for Wichita is not robust, and that’s a serious problem, especially when our officials think it’s good.


Notes

  1. Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University. Wichita Employment Forecast. January 8, 2019. Available at http://www.cedbr.org/forecast-blog/forecasts-wichita/1558-economic-outlook-wichita-2019-january-revision.
  2. Employment figures are not available for December 2018, so I use a crude estimate for that month.
  3. Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee. December 18-19, 2018. Available at https://www.federalreserve.gov/monetarypolicy/fomcminutes20181219.htm.

Retiring Sedgwick County Commissioner Dave Unruh praised

The praise for retired Sedgwick County Commissioner Dave Unruh can’t be based on our region’s accomplishments under his guidance. That is, if people are informed and truthful.

In January a group of Wichita business leaders submitted an op-ed to the Wichita Eagle to mark the retirement of Sedgwick County Commissioner Dave Unruh. I quote portions here, with emphasis added:

He easily won re-election because his constituents and the rest of us knew he was dedicated to strengthening our community, region and the state.

In economic development Commissioner Unruh was chairman in 2006 when the board voted to build a world-class technical-education facility to ensure we remained competitive for new jobs. The National Center for Aviation Training is home to the growing WSU Tech. He also championed smart economic development programs that generated additional tax dollars and regional cooperation through REAP and other efforts.

In his perseverance to get things done and his belief in our future, he’s made a difference.

On Sunday, the Wichita Eagle published a drawing by cartoonist Richard Crowson which lauded Unruh’s championing of the Intrust Bank Arena, Sedgwick County Zoo, Exploration Place, and mental health services. Responding on his Facebook profile, Commissioner Michael O’Donnell wrote this for public consumption:

“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit in” I believe this Greek proverb sums up the leadership of Dave Unruh as much as this stupendous Wichita Eagle cartoon. Our community has been blessed by the selfless and indelible leadership of Dave Unruh. I believe he was the most consequential local leader in our region for the last 2 decades and those of us fortunate enough to live in Sedgwick County are able to sit under the countless trees which Dave planted for us and our families for generations to come.

There’s another way to look at the Dave Unruh legacy in Sedgwick County, and that is through the lens of data. A shiny downtown area is nice, but not as nice as a prospering economy. Here are some figures.

In 2001, the year when Unruh assumed office in its first month, the median household income in Sedgwick County was higher than that of both Kansas and the United States. By 2017, Unruh’s last full year on the commission, Sedgwick County had fallen behind both, and by significant margins.

In 2001, the poverty rate in Sedgwick County was lower than that for the nation. By 2017, the situation was reversed: The Sedgwick County poverty rate is now higher, and significantly higher.

Looking at other measures of prosperity, we see Sedgwick County falling behind during the time Unruh was in office. Gross domestic product, personal income, per capita personal income, population, total employment, wage and salary employment, and manufacturing employment: In all these measures Sedgwick County underperformed the nation, and usually the State of Kansas. (GDP is available only for the Wichita metropolitan area, which is dominated by Sedgwick County.)

By himself, Dave Unruh isn’t responsible for this economic performance. Many others contributed at Wichita City Hall and the Kansas Capitol, as well as some of Unruh’s colleagues on the Sedgwick County Commission. Unruh and they supported the interventionist, corporatist model of economic development, and it hasn’t worked. That’s why it’s surprising to see so much praise for Unruh. It’s sad, too, because if business leaders and politicians really believe the “Unruh way” is the way that works, the outlook for our region is bleak.

Newsletter for January 20, 2019

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In Wichita, a gentle clawback

Despite the mayor’s bluster, Wichita mostly lets a company off the hook.

As reported in Wichita City Council to consider a clawback, a company failed to meet the targets of an economic development incentive, and according to that agreement, owes the city $253,000 in clawbacks.

The city council, however, decided to require the company to pay only $100,000 of that. The city reasoned that because the company is planning an expansion, that would offset the other $153,000 of the clawback.

Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell described this is holding the company accountable. The Wichita Eagle quoted him as saying, “This is why we’ve done it, to make sure that everyone is accountable and that the taxpayers, at the end of the day, win.”

But despite the mayor’s bluster, the city failed to enforce the agreement it made to protect taxpayers. Instead, the company receives $153,000 in free taxes that it didn’t deserve, along with an interest-free loan of $100,000 amortized over four years.

By the way, the same Eagle article reported: “Fiber Dynamics, a company founded by Darrin Teeter to commercialize technology developed at Wichita State’s National Institute for Aviation Research in the early ‘90s, hasn’t had to pay city property taxes since 2008, an estimated value of more than $500,000.”

Actually, the company didn’t pay any property taxes on the exempted property. That includes county, school, and state taxes.

Kansas jobs, December 2018

Data released today from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, part of the United States Department of Labor, shows a mostly improving jobs picture for Kansas in December 2018.

Over the year (December 2017 to December 2018), the Kansas labor force is up by 0.8 percent, also rising slightly over the past three months.

The number of unemployed persons rose from November to December, rising by 686 persons, or 1.4 percent. The unemployment rate was 3.3 percent in December, down from 3.5 percent from one year ago, but up by 0.1 percentage points from November. This is because the labor force grew by a larger proportion than did workers.

Click charts and tables for larger versions.

The number of Kansas nonfarm jobs for December 2018 rose by 20,100 or 1.4 percent over last December. This is using seasonally adjusted data. The non-adjusted figure is nearly the same at 19,900.

From November 2018 to December 2018, nonfarm employment in Kansas grew by 1,100, which is 0.1 percent.

Lawrence (Kansas) Park in Winter. By brent flanders. https://flic.kr/p/7wxm4o.
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Wichita migration not improving

Data from the United States Census Bureau shows that the Wichita metropolitan area has lost many people to domestic migration, and the situation is not improving.

The Wichita metropolitan area population is growing, but at a rate slower than most metro areas. From 2010 to 2017, the Wichita metro area grew in population by 2.3 percent. For all U.S. metro areas, the population growth was 6.5 percent. Of the 382 metropolitan areas, Wichita ranked 245.

Considering just the change from 2016 to 2017, Wichita’s population grew by 0.1 percent, ranking 268 of the 382 metro areas. All U.S. metro areas grew by 0.8 percent over the same period.

For net domestic migration, Wichita experienced a loss of 2.9 percent of its population from 2010 to 2017. This ranked 295 among metro areas. For 2016 to 2017, Wichita lost 0.5 percent, ranking 293, nearly unchanged from the larger earlier period.

This slow population growth and out-migration is happening at the same time Wichita-area leaders tell us that we have great momentum going forward. But the data — domestic migration, employment, gross domestic product, and personal income — don’t support what our leaders tell us.

I get it: We want to be optimistic about our future. But a false optimism is dangerous. It makes us complacent, even proud, when actual accomplishments don’t support that. We may be led to believe that what our leaders are doing is working, when it isn’t working. That is dangerous.

Politicians and bureaucrats can’t be trusted to be frank and truthful about this. They want to be reelected and keep their jobs. Their actions let us know they value their jobs more than the prosperity of Wichitans.

Newsletter for January 13, 2019

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Derek Yonai: Teaching the Morality of Free Enterprise

Derek K. Yonai, JD, Ph.D., Director of the Koch Center for Leadership & Ethics at Emporia State University, spoke to the Wichita Pachyderm Club January 11, 2019, on the topic of Teaching the Morality of Free Enterprise. View below, or click here to view at YouTube.

Wichita employment to grow in 2019

Jobs are forecasted to grow in Wichita in 2019, but the forecasted rate is low.

The forecast for Wichita metro area employment in 2019 calls for modest growth of 0.9 percent, according to the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University. 1 This follows growth of 0.8 percent in 2018. 2

Nationally, the economy is expected to continue strong growth. 3

The nearby chart illustrates that since the end of the last recession, job growth in Wichita has been below job growth in the nation as a whole. Generally, job growth in Wichita has been at about half the rate of the nation. In 2017, Wichita lost jobs.

Click for larger.

Of Wichita job growth in 2018, the CEDBR forecast notes, “This marked a return to the level of growth experienced in the Wichita area from 2012 to 2016, after experiencing a contraction in overall employment in 2017.” The average annual rate of job growth for those years in Wichita was 0.83 percent. It was 1.82 percent for the nation, which is 2.2 times the rate for Wichita.

CEDBR also notes, “Wichita’s unemployment rate declined throughout 2018 to a low of 3.5 percent in October 2018, the lowest unemployment rate for the area since 1999.” We should note that this decline is primarily due to a declining labor force in Wichita, rather than robust job growth.


Notes

  1. Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University. Wichita Employment Forecast. January 8, 2019. Available at http://www.cedbr.org/forecast-blog/forecasts-wichita/1558-economic-outlook-wichita-2019-january-revision.
  2. Employment figures are not available for December 2018, so I use a crude estimate for that month.
  3. Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee. December 18-19, 2018. Available at https://www.federalreserve.gov/monetarypolicy/fomcminutes20181219.htm.

Newsletter for January 6, 2019

Click here to view the freshest edition of the newsletter from Voice For Liberty. This edition is dated January 6, 2019.

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Taxpayers will miss Richard Ranzau

When a county commissioner’s questions produce a reversal of the county manager’s spending plans, you know we have good representation.

That’s what happened in 2013 when the county manager wanted to spend $47,000 to clear some trees. Commissioner Richard Ranzau thought the expense should be the responsibility of the neighborhood that would benefit from what he thought was a thinly-veiled request to shove off spending to the county.

What did the county manager say after Ranzau’s questions?

“We got out in front of ourselves without doing much critical thinking, and I take full responsibility for that,” Sedgwick County Manager Bill Buchanan said.

Good job, Richard Ranzau. You will be missed as a member of the Board of Sedgwick County Commissioners.

Wichita City Council to consider a clawback

The unrealized potential of an economic development incentive teaches lessons.

This week the Wichita City Council will consider an amendment to an economic development incentive agreement. 1

In 2008 the city awarded an incentive to a company in the form of exemption from paying property taxes, estimated by the city to be $93,175 annually at the time the incentive was awarded. 2

The incentive was awarded based on the applicant company creating a certain number of jobs and making a certain level of investment. It was rewarded on a five plus five basis, meaning that the city council reviewed the deal after five years. The plan was if the company met goals, the city would extend the incentive for another five years.

At the five-year review, however, the applicant company had not met the job goals. The city invoked an exception that allowed extension of the incentive based on a downturn in the economy as measured by the Wichita Current Conditions Index, which is produced by the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University. 3

Now is the end of the second five-year period. The job goals have not been met, and the city has decided the applicant company is in default of the agreement. The city is proposing a clawback, that is, recovery of the value of the incentive for the second five-year period. According to the agenda packet: “The value of the abated taxes for the second five-years is approximately $253,000. The City Council could clawback the entire amount, or some portion, per the incentive agreement.”

But: The agreement that the council will consider is that the applicant company build an expansion to its facilities at a cost of $2,500,000, using no incentives. Also, the company will repay $100,000 of the abated taxes, in four annual payments of $25,000.

A few things to learn:

First, economic development incentives don’t always work. This reflects the uncertainty of business. When the city presents projections like benefit-cost ratios, it might want to remind us that these values will be achieved only if the project targets are reached. When businesses describe their plans, these are called forward-looking statements. They are accompanied by disclaimers like “subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially.” Investors and interested parties are “cautioned not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements.” The same cautions hold for citizens of Wichita, as they are the investors paying the cost of incentives and expecting to receive the benefits. That is, after all, the foundation of the benefit-cost analysis that accompanies requests for incentives: That by spending now or by giving up future tax collections, the city receives even more in benefits.

Second, cities often don’t have the fortitude to strictly enforce clawbacks. Here, the company is receiving credit of $153,000 for construction an expansion to its facility, something the company was contemplating anyway. In other words, receiving credit for something it was going to do anyway. This is the usual case. 4

Third, when the city and its officials say we no longer use cash as an incentive, here’s a case where the city canceled $153,000 of debt the city is entitled to, based on its agreement with the applicant company. That’s just like cash.

For more on this topic, see Clawbacks illustrate difficulty of economic development and In Wichita, a gentle clawback


Notes

  1. Wichita City Council Agenda Packet for January 8, 2019. Item V-1.
  2. Wichita City Council Agenda Packet for February 12, 2008. Item No. 34
  3. See http://kansaseconomy.org/local-indices/wichita-current-index.
  4. Bartik, Timothy J. 2018. “‘But For’ Percentages for Economic Development Incentives: What percentage estimates are plausible based on the research literature?” Upjohn Institute Working Paper 18-289. Kalamazoo, MI: W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. https://doi.org/10.17848/wp18-289.

From Pachyderm: Martin Hawver

From the Wichita Pachyderm Club: Martin Hawver, dean of the Kansas Statehouse press corps. This was recorded January 4, 2019.

Martin Hawver is the editor and publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report, the respected, non-partisan news service that reports on Kansas government and politics.

He also is the dean of the Kansas Statehouse press corps, having covered the beat (36 years) longer than any current Statehouse reporter — first for 17 years as a Statehouse reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal and since 1993 for Hawver’s Capitol Report. He is the primary reporter/writer for the news service. He also writes a column syndicated to Kansas newspapers, is interviewed about Kansas government and politics on TV and radio shows, and is a speaker for seminars and conventions.

Hawver has covered 36 Kansas legislative sessions and 14 national Republican and Democratic political conventions, plus countless statewide and local political conventions.

Hawver writes a weekly column called “At The Rail” that is syndicated to Kansas newspapers. He also turns out to be an entertaining, informative, and pretty well-known public speaker, and if your Kansas-based group is interested in political humor, government humor, or even just understanding the landscape in the ever-more-confusing world of politics, you might want to consider having Martin Hawver speak. (Source: Hawver’s Capitol Report)

Wichita employment, November 2018

For the Wichita metropolitan area in November 2018, jobs are up, the labor force is up, and the unemployment rate is down, compared to the same month one year ago. Seasonal data shows a slowdown in the rate of job growth.

Data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, part of the United States Department of Labor, shows a mostly improving employment situation for the Wichita Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Total nonfarm employment rose from 296,700 last November to 302,200 this November. That’s an increase of 5,500 jobs, or 1.9 percent. (This data is not seasonally adjusted, so month-to-month comparisons are not valid.) For the same period, jobs in the nation grew by 1.6 percent.

The unemployment rate was 3.2 percent, down from 3.6 percent one year ago.

Considering seasonally adjusted data from the household survey, the labor force rose by 391 persons (0.1 percent) in November 2018 from October 2018, the number of unemployed persons fell by 8 (0.1 percent), and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.5 percent. The number of employed persons not working on farms rose to 298,749 in November from 298,350 the prior month, an increase of 399 persons, or 0.1 percent.

Click charts for larger versions.

Sedgwick County tops $434K in extra personnel costs

Sedgwick County has spent $434,663 in costs relating to the separations of two members of top management.

Through December 21, 2018, Sedgwick County had spent $434,663 on matters relating to former County Counselor Eric Yost and former County Manager Michael Scholes. The bulk of the costs were severance payments to both. There was also $89,375 for a study of matters related to county management. Additionally, there were attorney fees for Yost, Scholes, and all county commissioners except Michael O’Donnell.

Click here to view the report prepared by county financial staff.

Newsletter for December 30, 2018

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Kansas agency expenditures

Data regarding State of Kansas agency spending presented in an interactive visualization.

The source of this data is KanView, the Kansas transparency portal, through its download center. Data from multiple years are combined into one database. Data starts with fiscal year 2011.

This visualization is experimental. I would appreciate feedback on views of this data that would be useful.

Click here to access the visualization.

Example from the visualization. Click for larger.

Year in Review: 2018

Here are highlights from Voice for Liberty for 2018. Was it a good year for the principles of individual liberty, limited government, economic freedom, and free markets in Wichita and Kansas?

Also, don’t miss these notable episodes of WichitaLiberty.TV in 2018:

January

In Wichita, three Community Improvement Districts to be considered. In Community Improvement Districts (CID), merchants charge additional sales tax for the benefit of the property owners, instead of the general public. Wichita may have an additional three, contributing to the problem of CID sprawl.

Dale Dennis, sage of Kansas school finance?. Is the state’s leading expert on school funding truly knowledgeable, or is he untrustworthy?

February

Unemployment in Kansas. New Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer proudly cites the low Kansas unemployment rate, but there is more to the story.

Greater Wichita Partnership asks for help. Wichita’s economic development agency asks for assistance in developing its focus and strategies.

Metro Monitor evaluates the Wichita economy. Metro Monitor from Brookings Institution ranks metropolitan areas on economic performance. How does Wichita fare?

March

What Was Really the Matter with the Kansas Tax Plan. A book by Dave Trabert and Danedri Herbert of Kansas Policy Institute explains the recent history of taxes and the Kansas economy.

Growing the Wichita economy. Wichita leaders are proud of our region’s economic growth. Here are the numbers.

Property under attack in Kansas. Local governments in Kansas are again seeking expanded power to seize property.

Kansas government data may not be available. There is a movement to increase the transparency of government in Kansas, but there’s much to be done, starting with attitudes.

Mayor Longwell’s pep talk. A column written by Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell ignores the reality of Wichita’s economy.

Sedgwick County’s David Dennis on economic development. Following the Wichita Mayor, the Chair of the Sedgwick County Commission speaks on economic development.

Employment in the states. An interactive visualization of the civilian labor force, employment, and unemployment, for each state.

Employment in metropolitan areas. An interactive visualization of labor force, employment, and unemployment rate for all metropolitan areas in the United States.

Wichita city council public agenda needs reform. Recent use of the Wichita City Council public agenda has highlighted the need for reform.

Kansas personal income. Personal income in Kansas rose in 2017 at a rate one-third that of the nation.

Naftzger Park private use plans unsettled. An important detail regarding Naftzger Park in downtown Wichita is unsettled, and Wichitans have reason to be wary.

Kansas and Iowa schools. Should Kansas schools aspire to be more like Iowa schools?

April

Kansas highways set to crumble, foresees former budget director. Duane Goossen, former high Kansas government official, says the state’s highways are in trouble. What is his evidence?

In Wichita, spending semi-secret. The Wichita City Council authorized the spending of a lot of money without discussion.

Wichita property tax rate: Down. The City of Wichita property tax mill levy declined for the second year in a row.

Project Wichita right to look ahead at city’s future. We can understand self-serving politicians and bureaucrats. It’s what they do. But a city’s newspaper editorial board ought to be concerned with the truth.

NAEP 2017 for Kansas, first look. A look at National Assessment of Educational Progress test scores for Kansas and the nation, grade 4 reading.

Project Wichita, remember Visioneering Wichita. As Project Wichita gets ready to gather information and set goals, let’s be aware that we’ve done this before, and not long ago.

Intrust Bank Arena loss for 2017 is $4,222,182. As in years past, a truthful accounting of the finances of Intrust Bank Arena in downtown Wichita shows a large loss.

NAEP results for 2017 available in interactive visualizations. When properly considered, Kansas often underperforms the nation in the most recent assessment of “The Nation’s Report Card.”

Business patterns in Kansas counties. Census data shows that some counties in Kansas are growing faster than others.

Effect of NCAA basketball tournament on Wichita hotel tax revenues. Hotel tax collections provide an indication of the economic impact of hosting a major basketball tournament.

State government tax collections. An interactive visualization of tax collections by state governments.

Wichita tourism fee budget. The Wichita City Council will consider a budget for the city’s tourism fee paid by hotel guests.

May

Kansas GDP falls. For 2017, the Kansas economy shrank, and just two states performed worse.

The overcriminalization in the charges against Michael O’Donnell. The indictment against Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O’Donnell smells of overcriminalization.

State highways. Kansas has a lot of highway miles compared to its population. Interactive visualization included.

Wichita metropolitan area population in context. The growth of population in Wichita compared to other areas.

Lawrence has it. Wichita doesn’t. Despite promises, Wichita fails to inform citizens on important activities of its government.

State and local government employee and payroll. Considering all government employees in proportion to population, Kansas has many compared to other states, and especially so in education.

Personal income in Kansas and Wichita. Personal income in Wichita and Kansas has declined.

Wichita in Best Cities for Jobs 2018. Wichita continues to decline in economic vitality, compared to other areas.

Kansas school standards remain high. Kansas school assessment standards remain at a high level, compared to other states. This is a welcome change from the past.

Downtown Wichita business trends. There has been much public and private investment in Downtown Wichita. What has been the trend in business activity during this time?

Wichita property tax still high on commercial property. An ongoing study reports that property taxes on commercial and industrial property in Wichita are high. In particular, taxes on commercial property in Wichita are among the highest in the nation.

June

Sedgwick County jobs. Sedgwick County had fewer jobs in 2017 than in 2016.

Kansas teachers union compliance instructions released. If you’re running for office in Kansas and want the support of the teachers union, here are questions you’ll need to answer their way.

Airport traffic statistics, 2017. Airport traffic data presented in an interactive visualization, updated through 2017.

Wichita and Midwest income. A look at income in Wichita compared to other Midwest cities.

Wichita jobs up. Wichita employment trends are positive for three consecutive months.

July

Kansas tax collections. If Kansas government doesn’t have enough money to meet spending requests, it’s not for the lack of collecting taxes.

Project Wichita survey. The Project Wichita survey is about to end. Will it have collected useful data?

Wichita business press needs to step up. If a newspaper is going to write a news story, it might as well take a moment to copy and paste information from a city council agenda packet. Especially when what is missing from the story is perhaps the most important information.

Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce PAC mailing. In a campaign for Sedgwick County Commission, the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce PAC whips up a lie in order to criticize a candidate.

An endorsement from the Wichita Chamber of Commerce. When the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee endorses a candidate, consider what that means.

The Wichita Mayor on employment. On a televised call-in show, Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell is proud of the performance of the city in growing jobs.

August

Taxers prefer Hugh Nicks for Sedgwick County Commission. Those who supported higher sales taxes in Wichita also support one Sedgwick County Commission District 4 Republican candidate exclusively.

Ranked-choice voting in Kansas. A look at ranked-choice voting and how it might have worked in the Kansas Republican gubernatorial primary election in August 2018.

Wichita school spending, according to the Wichita Eagle. A recent editorial by the largest newspaper in Kansas misinforms its readers.

Wichita Eagle argues for higher taxes. The Wichita Eagle editorial board wants higher taxes. Relying on its data and arguments will lead citizens to misinformed and uninformed opinions.

Business improvement district proposed in Wichita. The Douglas Design District proposes to transform from a voluntary business organization to a tax-funded branch of government (but doesn’t say so).

Wichita Eagle calls for a responsible plan for higher taxes. A Wichita Eagle editorial argues for higher property taxes to help the city grow.

Wichita being sued, alleging improper handling of bond repayment savings. A lawsuit claims that when the City of Wichita refinanced its special assessment bonds, it should have passed on the savings to the affected taxpayers, and it did not do that.

September

Local government employment in Kansas. Kansas has nearly the highest number of local government employees per resident, compared to other states.

Wichita checkbook updated. Wichita spending data presented as a summary, and as a list.

Wichita, not that different. We have a lot of neat stuff in Wichita. Other cities do, too.

Kansas state and local taxes. Among nearby states, Kansas collects a lot of taxes, on a per-resident basis.

Wichita Wingnuts settlement: There are questions. It may be very expensive for the City of Wichita to terminate its agreement with the Wichita Wingnuts baseball club, and there are questions.

More TIF spending in Wichita. The Wichita City Council will consider approval of a redevelopment plan in a tax increment financing (TIF) district.

State government employees in Kansas. Kansas has more state government employees per resident than most states, and the trend is rising.

The use of sales tax proceeds in Wichita. Must the City of Wichita spend its share of Sedgwick County sales tax proceeds in a specific way?

Wichita economy shrinks, and a revision. The Wichita economy shrank in 2017, but revised statistics show growth in 2016.

GDP by metropolitan area and component. An interactive visualization of gross domestic product by metropolitan area and industry.

Kansas agriculture and the economy. What is the importance of agriculture to the Kansas economy?

October

Kansas school spending, through 2018. Charts of Kansas school spending presented in different forms.

Kansas highway spending. A look at actual spending on Kansas highways, apart from transfers.

Kansas highway pavement conditions. What is the condition of Kansas highways?

Pete Meitzner for Sedgwick County?. In normal times, Republicans may be reluctant to vote for a Democrat for the Sedgwick County Commission. But these are not normal times, and a vote for Pete Meitzner sends a message that we just don’t care about our economy.

November

Kansas GDP growth spurt. In the second quarter of 2018, the Kansas economy grew at the annual rate of 4.7 percent, the seventh-best rate in the nation.

Sedgwick County Manager epitomizes duty, honor, country. As a Sedgwick County citizen and taxpayer, I have been distressed to see news reports about the scandals, FBI and other legal investigations, that involve this county commission. By Karl Peterjohn.

Kansas school salaries. An interactive visualization of Kansas school salaries by district and category.

Personal income in Wichita rises, but slowly. For 2017, personal income in Wichita rose, but slower than the national rate.

Kansas tax receipts. The Kansas Division of the Budget publishes monthly statistics regarding tax collections. I’ve gathered these and present them in an interactive visualization. Updated with data through October 2018.

December

Sedgwick County income and poverty. Census data show Sedgwick County continuing to fall behind the nation in two key measures.

It’s not the bonds, it’s the taxes. A Wichita Eagle headline reads “Wichita aircraft supplier plans 45 new jobs with $7.5 million bond request,” but important information is buried and incomplete.

Efficiencies in Sedgwick County government. A document that hasn’t been made public details savings achieved in Sedgwick County over a recent period of nearly three years.

Sedgwick County tax exemptions. Unlike the City of Wichita, Sedgwick County has kept track of its tax exemptions.

Starlite loan isn’t needed. The Wichita City Council seems poised to enter an unnecessarily complicated transaction.

Kansas tax credit scholarship program. An op-ed in the Wichita Eagle regarding school choice prompts uninformed and misinformed comments.

Newsletter for December 23, 2018

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