With a new Rural Housing Incentive District recently approved by the city of Newton, and set for a public hearing on Oct. 8, information on said district was brought before the Harvey County Commission at its meeting on Tuesday.

As one of three local taxing authorities, Harvey County would be impacted by the RHID and Newton Development Director Kelly McElroy came before the commission Tuesday to discuss how the new RHID (Newton Estates, near the intersection of SE 24th Street and Anderson Avenue) would affect local tax revenue.

The agreement, McElroy noted, would be similar to that of the current Prairie Fire and Cottonwood Crossing RHIDs that exist in Newton. She noted that submitting as an RHID gives developers increased odds of financing approval with the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation and the city pushed forward with the RHID based on a housing needs analysis completed in May 2019. That analysis found the need for more senior housing in Newton, which Newton Estates would help meet (and potentially help address a secondary market for more single family homes, also a need).

"You can't even qualify for an RHID ... unless you can prove you're short on that type of housing," McElroy said. "We're short in Newton on most all types of housing."

Some units in in the senior housing development of Newton Estates are also planned to be offered as low-income housing (at up to 60 percent below market value) — to meet an additional need, as well as offer a potential additional tax credit to the developer.

For developers, the way the RHID is structured they must pay the property tax assessed before project development, while property taxes on the increased assessed value from the development are set up as a rebate. Those taxes must by paid to the owner first, but are then rebated to the developer to fund the public improvements, infrastructure, utility work, etc.

Rebates are offered for up to 25 years per project, but could expire sooner based on how quickly the developer pays down the costs of the public improvements tied to the project. For some, though, the delay put on that tax revenue does more harm than good.

Commissioner Randy Hague used the Maize school district as an example, with both Maize and the Newton schools trying to pass a recent bond project. The difference between Maize's success and Newton's failure was simple in his mind — there was no need for Maize to increase taxes.

"We have growth, but we do it like this, we have no (revenue) increase," Hague said. "I'm opposed to tax abatements on housing properties, I'm sorry. It just shifts more of the burden, again, to the ones who are paying taxes."

No action was needed from the county, but it was noted any formal objection would need to be written up and sent to the city.

In other business, the county commission:

Learned that an initial application for hazard mitigation funds following recent flooding events (for outdoor warning sirens at East and West Park) was denied.
Was notified that a joint meeting of the county, city, Newton Board of Education and Newton Recreation Commission has been set for 7 p.m. Oct. 29 at the Meridian Center.
Approved commissioner Hague as voting delegate, and county clerk Rick Piepho as alternate, for the Kansas Workers Risk Cooperative for Counties meeting at the annual Kansas Association of Counties conference.
Received the 2018 real estate appraisal/rales ratio study from appraiser Michelle Lowery, noting the county is in compliance with sales (compared to appraised value) in all areas and its median ratio falls right in the middle of the required confidence level.
Approved a 36-month lease amendment with Prairie View for the Harvey County Health Department office space, effective Jan. 1, 2020. Rental rates will be $8.50 per square foot, with a two percent annual increase rate built into the amendment (in place of the elimination of a provision for uncapped rental rate increases due to unforeseen circumstances). Total increase in annual rental cost for 2020 will be $3,352.
Received requests for qualification for a courthouse space and remodel study from LK Architecture, GLMV Architecture, Goldberg Group Architecture, SFS Architecture, SJCF Architecture, Spangenberg Phillips Tice Architecture, WDM Architects, Alloy Architecture and Hoefer/Wysocki. Those submissions will now be reviewed by staff to narrow down finalists for the county to consider for the project.