Thursday, April 29, 2010

Decatur Township's Taxbase - Not to Blame for Fiscal Mess in School District

The incumbent candidates for Decatur School Board, and the District Administration, would love for you to believe that the financial mess that the District is in, is due in large measure not to their buying and spending spree, but is due to the existence of the Indianapolis Airport and the United Tax Increment Finance (TIF) District within our Township boundaries.

The short version, if you just want to take my word for it, is "poppycock". Much like your parents assets, they may sit in full view of you, but the money is being spent elsewhere and will not be yours until it is time. To spend funds as though that inheritance is already yours is plainly and simply irresponsible and WILL get you into a financial hole. But, you will have only yourself to blame.

The longer version, if you don't want to take my word for it, or you are curious how TIFs and public tax-free property work, or you already know all this and just want to make sure I get it correct -- please read on.

The simplest item is the Indianapolis Airport. The Airport owns a huge number of acres both on and around the airport runways. These properties are not subject to property taxes; just like any other government property, school property, or church property. In the case of the Airport, both Wayne and Decatur Township residents and officials have long sought to have the excess property sold to taxpaying groups and businesses so that they will again contribute property tax funds to our two Townships. Businesses located on Airport property, may pay 'personal property' taxes on their buildings and what is inside them, but they do not have to pay 'real estate property' taxes. FedEx, for instance, is located within Decatur's borders, and is our single largest property tax payer, but it is shielded from its full property tax bill because it is the Airport that owns the land, some of the buildings, and some of the equipment inside the buildings, and the Airport does not pay property taxes. It is worth noting that this Airport tax situation has been the same since the Airport's creation decades and decades ago. Not that we should give up our attempts to get the Airport's excess property put back on the tax rolls, but it is silly to blame the Airport for our School District's financial mess. Again, those funds were never given to us, and have never been relied upon to finance our debt. Like the inheritance analogy, these monies have never been ours to spend, and will not be ours until certain events take place.

The United TIF District was formed back in the end of the Hudnut and beginning of the Goldsmith Administration, as I recall. In order to lure United Airlines to locate its Maintenance Center at our Airport, something like $300 million in tax money was pledged to help build the facility and to help sweeten the deal for United. To pay this huge sum, a Tax Increment Finance District was formed using land in Decatur and Wayne, but also Warren and Lawrence Townships. At the beginning date of the TIF, the baseline value of all this land was frozen. All property taxes that were previously being paid out, continue to this day to be paid out to the governmental units in whose territory the property lies. Any new property built in the TIF will pay its share of property taxes, but the money will diverted to pay off the United bonds instead of going to the governmental units in whose territory the property lies. This new property tax revenue is what is referred to as the 'Increment' in the TIF name.

For Decatur Township, the United TIF includes all of the development in Ameriplex except for the two new hotels, the portion of the Pepsi warehouse that is inside Marion County, and the new Greybar building. Last I heard anything specific about this TIF, the bonds were to finally be paid off by 2018 -- if the City didn't refinance and extend the term of those bonds. According to figures supplied to me by Marion County Assessor, Greg Bowes, the TIF District accounts for 13% of the total value of property in Decatur Township. But, again like the inheritance analogy, you might wish that money was yours now, but it is not. It is foolhardy to spend money you do not have and will not have for some time to come.

For property tax purposes, Decatur Township is indeed going to be in a better position some day. But, the School Board and the Administration knew that our tax base had a TIF District and an Airport carved into it. They spent frivolously and now they want you to blame these issues rather than them. Simple as that.


Anonymous said...

An Alabama school district made the following announcement:

(Baldwin County, Ala.) - The superintendent search for Baldwin County has now been narrowed down to 6 finalists. BWP and Associates, the superintendent search firm working for Baldwin County, received 31 applications from 14 states. Baldwin County Public Schools Superintendent Finalists (in no certain order): Samuel DePaul, SuperintendentStanly County SchoolsAlbemarle, North CarolinaSystem Enrollment: 9,350Joe Kelley, Area SuperintendentKaty ISDKaty, TexasSystem Enrollment: 55,000Alan LeeWashington County Public SchoolsAbingdon, VirginiaSystem Enrollment: 7,500Roy "Cole" Pugh, SuperintendentEagle Mountain, Saginaw ISDSystem Enrollment: 16,100Donald Stinson, SuperintendentMSD of Decatur TownshipIndianapolis, IndianaSystem Enrollment: 7,000 Beth Wright, SuperintendentFlorence County School District 3Lake City, South CarolinaSystem Enrollment: 3,800

Looks like Stinson is looking for a job. Hope the Alabama school system doesn't look into Decatur's money mismanagement.

This is a FACT not a rumor.

Anonymous said...

Go to:

See it.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who has not submitted and had board action for retirement should wait to make that decision after the board takes action on Stinson's package to leave. It will be a nice cushion. Don't know if the horses got out of the barn and went south or maybe they are trying to get back into the barn????? The superintendent is taking care of himself (as usual) and so must the other employees.

Anonymous said...

Take him, PLEASE!!!!

Anonymous said...

Maybe Susan Adams and Candace Baer will go with him. Would be great. Don't want Sullivan to be the new superintendent - she can go with him also.

Had Enough Indy? said...

anon 2:46 - You get the award for biggest news scoop in Decatur for 2008, 2009, and 2010 !!!!!

Thanks !