Derby City Council is set to take a closer look at a possible funding path for Field Station: Dinosaurs, a dinosaur-themed park and museum looking to build on the north end of Derby.
City Council will host a public forum at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 25, in City Hall. There, Derby residents will be allowed to speak and find out more about the STAR bond process and the dinosaur park itself.
City Manager Kathy Sexton said at that meeting, only a public hearing will be had on the STAR bond issue. No decisions will be set on the matter, she said.
Sexton said the city is also working on an agreement to have the developers help pay for some of the early expenses incurred by the city, including lawyer fees, hearing notices and for some city officials to travel to the Seacaucus, N.J. Field Stations: Dinosaur park.
Derby Mayor Randy White said there’s a lot that’s still unknown about the process, so he plans on being “deliberate” and “thorough” through the process’s eight to 10 steps.
STAR bonds, which stand for Sales Tax and Revenue bonds, are sometimes used in Kansas to set up districts designed to promote tourism to the area, promoting growth in revenue for the city and the state.
STAR bond districts can be set up in commercial areas to garner some sales tax revenue from businesses who build there. Once a district is set up, a “snapshot” is taken of the sales tax amount.
In subsequent months, if the sales tax revenue goes above the “snapshot” amount, whatever is left over goes directly to help pay for parts of the project, in this case, Field Station: Dinosaurs.
As an example, if the STAR bond districts are set up in September and businesses generate around $1 million in sales tax revenues, a snapshot would be taken of that amount.
In October – and other future months – if the revenue is up to $1.5 million, the $500,000 would go toward parts of Field Station: Dinosaurs.
City Manager Kathy Sexton said sales tax rates themselves are expected to stay where they are at this point.
STAR bonds have been used on other projects in Kansas, including the NASCAR track in Kansas City. But STAR bonds have also been criticized by some after the City of Topeka had to supplement its payments with other taxes.
Topeka issued STAR bonds in 2006 to help pay for a city racetrack. But a 2014 report on the project said the city had to supplement the sales tax for payments by more than $2 million.
“The City does not believe the special sales tax will be able to pay the debt service,” the report stated.
While situations could differ between cities and projects partially funded through STAR bonds, the Topeka project has caused some to call for a repeal of the process altogether.
In Derby, some have expressed concerns with the STAR bond process being used in Derby. But others have said they are excited about what Field Station: Dinosaurs could bring to the community.
Derby Mayor Randy White said they plan on utilizing the local resources – including STAR bond projects in Goddard and Wichita – to make sure they make the right decisions.
“There’s a lot of people that have already gone through this STAR bond process,” he said. “We just need to follow the process.”