December 21, 2019

Mallory Herrmann

The Lee’s Summit R-7 School District has approved a $25,000 grant contribution to the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council for 2020.

After tabling their discussion of the grant from their Nov. 21 meeting, Board Member Jackie Clark again raised questions about the value that the district is getting from contributing more than the $10,000 minimum contribution.

Citing other Missouri school districts’ own local EDC investments, which largely range from nothing to $5,000, Clark wondered why the R-7 district has spent $25,000 each year. The Blue Springs school district, for instance, invests $5,000 with the LSEDC and $5,000 with the Independence EDC each year.

Clark proposed a substitute motion to approve a grant contribution of $10,000.

While Board Member Mike Allen said that he could not vote and would abstain, he argued that it was imperative that the district continue investing with LSEDC in order to continue to have a seat at the table with important community partners, particularly in the face of continued and anticipated development growth across the city.

But Board Member Ryan Murdock asked whether the district would still have that voice if they only gave $10,000.

Rick McDowell, LSEDC president and CEO, said that the LSEDC was founded in partnership with the school district and the district is actually written into their bylaws. While the organization offers varying levels of investment, McDowell said that a change in the district’s contribution would mean changes in their participation.

“It’s unlikely that you’d have the same level of presence,” he said.

Murdock thanked McDowell for the information, noting that the district’s automatic board seat and other presence with the LSEDC had not been clearly communicated before the meeting.

Questions about the amount of the district’s investment were raised in response to taxpayer questions about a 2014 state audit report saying it was unclear what additional benefits the district receives for their contribution beyond the $10,000 minimum listed on the LSEDC’s website.

LSEDC is a public-private partnership that aims to improve the economic well-being of Lee’s Summit through job creation and business investment. But as Clark noted, it hasn’t always been clear how successful they have been, with the city council also raising questions about their outcomes.

Joseph Hatley, district attorney, suggested it was a good time to revisit the agreement between the district and LSEDC because there was no dollar amount specified.

Interim Superintendent Emily Miller agreed that the district should work to evaluate measurable outcomes over the coming year and be willing to reevaluate.

Clark’s substitute motion did not receive a second.

Approval of the $25,000 grant passed with only Clark voting against. Allen, in order to avoid a conflict of interest, abstained.

Attendance from LSEDC at the meeting included Todd Haynes, Chip Moxley, Machelle and Jim Riffe and McDowell.