Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Yes Kids, TIF Bases Really Did Erode

I was pretty taken aback when alerted recently to a Twitter exchange between City-County Councillor Zach Adamson and Mayor Ballard's Chief of Staff, Ryan Vaughn.

Yes, Ryan Vaughn actually stated that "TIFs don't touch the base.  That's why it's called Tax 'Increment' Financing."

It is discouraging that someone so involved with spending our tax dollars, does not understand the difference between the promises made about TIFs and the reality.

The erosion of the base was so prevalent in Indiana, that two years ago the Legislature enacted changes in how the base is recalculated each year (the TIF neutralization). 

I have obtained all of these forms for all Marion County TIFs from 2008 to 2013.  Below I chart the increment and base for all TIFs whose base was not already zero in 2008.  I did not include 2013 data because they grouped the TIF numbers - for instance, all the component TIFs of the Consolidated Downtown TIF are no longer reported individually.  Suffice it to say, the new base recalculating method is most helpful in preserving the base.

Some notes to the graphs:
Assessments are done in one year, and the taxes are billed the following year on that assessment.  Thus, the x-axis reports time in the format of 2008pay2009.
The y-axis for the increment is on the left and increment is shown in red.
The y-axis for the base is on the right and base is shown in blue.

29 TIFs had non-zero base in 2008.

I think TIF 151 had a transcription error on the pay 2011 form
TIF 640 had been dormant before 2012, when it was reactivated.  The base was reconfigured at that point in time.


Regardless of what happened to the increment - rise or fall - the base always fell.  The combined erosion of the bases between 2008 and 2012 (not counting TIF 640 - the Dow Elanco TIF because its base was reconfigured during that period) amounted to $283,579,872.  The taxes on that eroded base did not continue to flow to the schools, libraries, or the city, as was promised.  Instead it went into the increment to fatten the TIF slush funds.


Anonymous said...

So contrary to what our beloved mayor states it would appear that TIFS and misdirected spending priorities are the problem not property tax caps. And now with Indianapolis rapidly becoming Detroit the mayor and his minions will pitch another tax increase for public safety. Of course there is no guarantee that any taxes earmarked for public safety will be used for public safety but hey it worked before.

Gary R. Welsh said...

I think you've explained it before, but can you recap how it is that the original base assessment of a TIF district can erode?

Had Enough Indy? said...

Gary, each year the TIFs get reevaluated for how much new value (or loss of value) there was the preceding year - and - it is allotted between increment and base.

In previous years the form tried to protect the revenue flowing from the increment. So, if the general value of real estate dropped in the TIF, or if the tax rate dropped, the increment got some of the base - unless the base had already dropped to zero.

Since last year, all new construction and all abatements rolling down gets allotted to the increment - demolition and growth or contraction in real estate value gets apportioned to both the increment and base.

Had Enough Indy? said...

Anon - I've also been working on the actual affect of the tax caps on property tax revenues to the taxing units. Suffice it to say, the City has faired well, with net revenue holding relatively constant, and this year actually growing despite the caps.

So, while these graphs don't directly inform us of the tax caps, others in the pipeline do affirm your statement that the problem is not the property tax caps.

Anonymous said...

So if your entire TIF District is made up of "Shabby Acres", you really want your TIF Project"Shiny Acres" to generate enough taxes to cover the bond issued by itself, or close thereto, because if Shiny Acres doesn't improve the value of a lot of the rest of Shabby Acres, there's always the risk that some part of Shabby Acres will go bust, stop paying taxes, and erode the base. Of course, that risk was there even without the TIF, but now that there's a bond out there, you may need to take more of what the remaining part of Shabby Acres is paying to cover your bond payments (unless, as noted, they're all covered by Shiny Acres, or Shiny starts to make Shabby shine)

Anonymous said...

I now that the most of the Tifs now have a sunset provision, except one in Indianapolis, is there any site at IndyGov or elsewhere where we can see those end dates?

Had Enough Indy? said...

The sunset date doesn't get applied until June 30 of next year. So, they still have time, unfortunately, to float more bonds to extend the expiry date.

Had Enough Indy? said...

Anon 2:59 - what you want is "Shiny Acres" to attract private investment and for the area to improve that way.

That's the theory for increasing the increment. The powers that be prefer to take an area where there already is organic private investment, create a TIF there, and by piggy backing on the organic growth, ensure new increment - rather than use a TIF to spark new development.

Anonymous said...

It's not just the theory, it's that way the concept has the best chance of working - right? If your entire TIF area is Shady Acres, you have little or no margin for error unless Shiny Acres is a great success and floats everyone's boat. If only some of the TIF is Shady Acres, you can lower your risk of eroding the base by providing a lot less than 100% help to a Shiny Acres project and applying some of it to a subsequent Shady Acres project. I get that you assume every project in Shiny Acres would have been built anyway, but hat's always an unanswerable question within a TIF, and if everyone is really secretly waiting for a TIF to be created before building anything, it doesn't account for why some parcels sit for decades and other develop overnight.

Had Enough Indy? said...

Anon 3:55 - TIFs are constructed differently in different states. So, it can be a single project footprint; it can be a rule that the exact value of the base on day zero is the forever value of the base. Indiana doesn't have an inherently superior system for TIFs.

Studies show that areas with TIFs don't grow any better or worse than areas without TIFs.

Politicians like them because they provide slush funds, and some regular folks think they are magic bullets to 'cure' what ails their neighborhood. But, I'm not convinced that, except for actual blighted areas without any other resources, that TIFs are net helpful. While you might redirect some development away from a nearby neighborhood to your own, the TIF also keeps needed resources from schools and other basic services. That can hurt your neighborhood's ability to flourish, too.

Anonymous said...

If you define a TIF District a only a blighted area, where do you get the increment?

Had Enough Indy? said...

Anon 7:43 - if you establish a TIF in a blighted area, and design a project, then the project would provide the initial increment. The hope is that this project will attract private investment that would augment the increment. If so, then there would be more money to pay for additional projects, or to pay off the original bonds more quickly - spending less on interest.

Anonymous said...

It;s going to require a to more TIF dollars to encourage a developer to build in a blighted area (there's a reason the area is blighted and there's been no development. There's also a higher risk that while you're waiting for the impact of the project to realize its potential, stuff is going to continue to deteriorate (eroding the base) I'd rather have a larger base. Your right that these projects ought to be chosen carefully, but there also ought to be a larger plan for the area in place.

Had Enough Indy? said...

Anon 9:13 - I don't disagree with you on those points.

Anonymous said...

most seem to follow a pattern - what's with Martindale Brightwood?

Had Enough Indy? said...

Anon 8:24 - I think it was a transcription error on that form. It was so out of whack as to not be real bounce.

The Auditor hires Policy Analytics to gather and fill out the information on the forms. Perhaps one of them could weigh in.?.