First, let me say how outstanding it has been to work in concert with the good folks from Meridian Kessler Neighbors Helping Neighbors. These folks (Clarke Kahlo, Paula Light, Ellen Antoniades, Terry Sanderson, and Doug Sherow) understand the connection between TIF proliferation and cutbacks in funding for basic services like police, fire, and schools. They know the Meridian Kessler does not want for much, and presented the facts and figures that clearly demonstrated that the northern half of the North Midtown TIF should be removed from any consideration of a TIF.
Of concern is the fact that the only representatives of the City, who were in fact consultants, did not understand the wider view of TIFs beyond their particular focus of expertise. I refer to Barnes & Thornburg attorney, Bruce Donaldson, and Crowe Horwath's Angela Steeno.
Donaldson evidently writes up the documents that lead to the creation of TIF districts, and likely does a masterful job with that. Yet, when asked about erosion of the base by turning it into TIF increment, he was way off the mark. He relayed to the Commissioners the mistaken impression that the annual filing by the County Auditor of a form known as the "TIF neutralization" form, only causes the base to float up and down with normal fluxuations of assessed values. His lack of understanding of the actual effect of these forms is damaging. He helps perpetuate the fairy tale that the tax dollars flowing from a TIF district the day before the TIF is created, will always flow to fund the schools and police, etc. He had not heard anything about nearly half a billion dollars of base being converted into increment this past year. (see "TIF Fact #2 --- $490 million of property value was transferred from the base to the increment this year" and click here to review the forms for yourself [edited to add - line 7 reports the old base assessed value and line 13a the new base AV determined through the form]). I was given a few minutes to respond to his error. Hopefully, the Commissioners will follow up on this matter with Deron Kintner so that they are fully informed on how this aspect of TIF districts actually functions.
One brief comment by Donaldson surely sent a chill up the spines of many of the proponents. He told the Commission that they didn't have to do any projects in Broad Ripple (as a for instance) if they didn't want to. They could, instead, use TIF revenue from Broad Ripple to fund projects in other parts of the district.
Steeno had a couple of interesting moments. Her focus was on the impact of the Broad Ripple parking garage (that was paid for with $6.34 million of taxpayer dollars) on the amount of tax revenue that could be generated, the amount of bonds that revenue could secure, and the effect of its inclusion in the increment on the circuit breaker penalties tied intimately with TIFs due to the property tax caps. She seemed unaware that the owners of the garage could appeal an assessment using the cost to build, by arguing that the cash it generates should instead for the assessment - and leading to a lower assessed value than she was predicting.
More importantly are two numbers she reported, but failed to link together. She stated that the garage should generate $317,000 a year in property tax revenue to the TIF. She also stated that the garage would cause "only" about $200,000 a year in circuit breaker penalties throughout the County.
This is important as it predicts the minimum effect of this TIF on cuts in property taxes that our various governmental units qualify for, but cannot collect due to property tax caps.
The minimum effect is that for every dollar generated in the North Midtown TIF district, circuit breaker penalties will rise by 63 cents. That's pretty substantial. So, if the TIF generates $10 million, expect penalties to rise by $6.3 million a year. That's $6.3 million less in services - from schools, to the Library, to IndyGo, to police, and to fire - and more.
The failure of those in control of the money in our City to come to terms with the reality of how TIFs really operate, is likely to haunt our community for at least one more generation. It is curious indeed, that those who promoted this TIF because of executives fleeing our more affluent Marion County neighborhoods, have likely exacerbated the underlying reason. The reason families flee the county is not for a lack of commercial development, it is often because of the lack of good quality schools. Inappropriate TIF districts make the problem worse for schools, not better.
I am having technical problems loading more than one clip from the hearing. I will attempt to added the other clips to subsequent posts. You can view the entire hearing by clicking here.
Meridian Kessler Neighbors Helping Neighbors comments, plus my own.