November 23, 2019

Mallory Herrmann

The Lee’s Summit R-7 Board of Education will be taking some time to review their annual contribution to the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council (LSEDC).

At the board’s Nov. 21 meeting, they decided to table the decision after Board Member Jackie Clark raised concerns from a 2014 state audit that questioned the amount the district spends on the partnership.

The report from then- State Auditor of Missouri Thomas Schweich reads, in part:

“The district pays $25,000 to the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council for membership, but the council’s website indicates maximum membership benefits are available for $10,000, and it is unclear what additional benefits the district receives for the additional contribution.”

Rick McDowell, LSEDC president and CEO, said in a presentation that his organization’s primary responsibility is to create new economic capital and new jobs, and that the school system is a key partner in those efforts.

“You’re the number one thing we sell and promote,” McDowell said.

Referencing collaborations like National Manufacturing Day, which provides students with tours and presentations in the manufacturing industry, McDowell said that no other city seems to have a partnership with their school system like LSEDC does.

The district’s administration recommended a continuation of the investment, saying “This is a sound investment as the EDC is integral in work to expand the district’s commercial tax base. Success in achieving a balanced tax base assists in relieving pressure on residential tax needs, and ultimately lowers the levy needed for school district operations.”

Clark suggested that the board should take some time to reconsider the amount of the investment that the district is making. Board Member Judy Hedrick suggested that as the board reviews the audit report, they should also determine how the board responded at the time.

Hedrick and Board Member Mike Allen voted against Clark’s motion to table the issue. The vote passed with five votes in favor.