The Kansas Development Finance Authority has released documents that show plans for financing a proposed theme park near DeSoto.
J-W Staff and Wire Reports
DeSoto -- Developers of the proposed Wonderful Wizard of Oz theme park near here are asking for more public financing and more tax breaks to help pay for the project.
A financing plan submitted last week by Oz Entertainment Co. includes a request for $327.5 million in both sales tax and property tax bonds, economic development grants and public improvements, money that would be matched by $433.6 million in private financing.
"The net economic effect is extraordinarily positive for all levels of government and the economy, so a public-private partnership is a reasonable request," said David Westbrook, an Oz spokesman.
As recently as December, Oz officials had estimated they would need about $260 million in sales tax revenue, or STAR bonds, plus $20 million in state grants and $35 million for infrastructure improvements.
They also said at the time that they expected the new sales tax revenues generated by the development would be enough to repay the bonds, and they had no plans at that time to ask for additional property tax incentives.
Johnson County officials would have to approve the abatement. In the past, they've been skeptical of such measures.
County Commissioner Johnna Lingle, whose district covers the Sunflower site, said she remained opposed to granting Oz a property tax break.
The company would pay about $2.25 million a year in property taxes to the DeSoto school district, as required by state law, and would pay a fee to the county for some services. But Oz wants the county to waive all other county property taxes. It's unknown how much that would save Oz.
The company gave plans to the Kansas Development Finance Authority last week, and documents were made public Monday.
The authority will use the documents, including a feasibility study and redevelopment plan, to decide whether to issue the tax increment financing bonds and sales tax revenue bonds for the project.
The authority has been negotiating with the federal government and Oz for a year to allow Oz to acquire the U.S. Army's former ammunition plant at Sunflower near DeSoto in exchange for cleaning it of environmental hazards.
Terms of the deal, and the Oz company's financing package, are nearing completion, both sides said.
Under the latest plan, Oz would agree to buy $8.8 million in insurance to guarantee that the cleanup gets done. Oz plans to spend an additional $32 million to $40 million on the cleanup.
If the cleanup costs less than $32 million, Oz would have to pay the federal government the difference.
The state finance authority board is scheduled to vote Sept. 10 to issue a resolution of intent to create a redevelopment district at Sunflower. The step is necessary for the authority to issue bonds for the project, but it does not mean the board will approve them.
The bonds are a key part of the Oz financing plan, a complex mix of equity, bank debt, tax-exempt bonds, public infrastructure improvements and economic-development grants.
The total project cost is now estimated at $761 million, down about $10 million from earlier predictions.
Oz expects the theme park and resort to generate $195 million its first year, based on projections of 3.2 million visitors. Oz plans to open the park in May 2002.