Saturday, February 25, 2012

Proposal for TIF Study Group Gets Hearing Monday Evening

City-County Council Proposal 70 is absolutely what the taxpayers of Indianapolis need passed.  Authored by Councillor Brian Mahern, it proposes that elementary issues about TIF districts be studied and more.  It is so very important that our community engage in a conversation about TIFs as they have an immense impact on property tax rates, revenues available to our governmental units, and economic development in our City.  Last year was a watershed year for interest in the topic by regular citizens.  Now it is time to move that conversation forward.

It must also be said that it is the responsibility of the Councillors to have an understanding of TIF districts because so much that comes before the Council on economic matters has an interplay with TIF districts and visa versa.  How do abatements within a TIF district affect the ability to pay the bonds underlying the district?  How many poorly performing TIFs do we have and how does that affect the promises made when the TIF was set up - for instance the promise that all of the tax revenues flowing to the schools and fire departments and library and IndyGo will continue to flow after the TIF is set up (a promise more often broken than kept is my guess).  How long should a TIF exist - should it be retired as soon as possible, or should it be used as a long lived slush fund?

There are plenty of questions we all should be asking.  But, here is what Prop 70 would aim for as its core assortment of questions:
The Commission shall review and make recommendations on Indianapolis City-Marion County economic development policies and procedures related to TIF used in Marion County, including but not limited to, the following:

1) Policies and past practices used in Marion County for the establishment of TIF districts and projects therein;

2) Policies and past practices used in Marion County for the expenditure of TIF district funds and the issuance of debt backed by TIF district funds;
3) Current Marion County TIF districts and associated fund balances, debt obligations and past expenditures;

4) Need for new methods to increase transparency of Marion County TIF districts’ funds and the expenditure of those funds, including the establishment of an online database of TIF districts’ funds and expenditures and periodic reporting of TIF districts’ financial data to the Indianapolis City Controller, Marion County Auditor, the Indianapolis-Marion County Council and taxing districts impacted by TIF;
5) Need for new methods to increase accountability, including the establishment of new performance standards in the establishment of TIF districts to ensure targeting of TIF districts to revitalize blighted areas of Marion County and job creation;

6) Need for performance goals for private development that receives TIF and methods to provide consequences for the failure to achieve those goals.

7) Need for a comprehensive economic development plan to ensure the creation and development of TIF districts and projects therein in a coordinated fashion consistent with economic development goals of job creation and community revitalization;

8) Need for periodic review of established TIF districts and projects therein to ensure performance towards economic development goals

9) Impact of TIF districts on Marion County taxing districts that depend on property tax revenue and the need to mitigate negative impact to those taxing districts, including development of standards and methods to return excess TIF district funds to those units; and

10) Need to establish methods to dismantle TIF districts that are no longer needed and/or address projects therein that are not achieving economic development goals.
The study group would include:
The Commission established for this purpose shall be composed of eight (8) members, as follows: 

(1) the chair of the Council’s Metropolitan and Economic Development Committee, who will serve as chair of the commission;  
(2) the chair of the Council’s Rules and Public Policy Committee;  
(3) a member of the minority caucus of the Council, appointed by the Council  president;  
(4) the Indianapolis City Controller;  
(5) the executive director of the Indianapolis Bond Bank;  
(6) the Marion County Auditor;  
(7) a member of the Metropolitan Development Commission, to be appointed by the Council president; and  
(8) a member of the Indiana General Assembly, to be appointed by the Council president.
Preliminary findings would be reported back to the Council by April 30.

I cannot endorse this Proposal more strongly than I do.  Councillor Mahern has put together a well thought out plan of inquiry that can only improve our understanding of the real ability of TIFs to impact economic development and at the same time establish safeguards that will help protect the public from misuse of these complex tools.
The Committee meets in Room 260 of the City-County Building beginning at 5:30 pm.  The members of that Council Committee are:
Steve Talley (Chair)
Zach Adamson
Virginia Cain
Jeff Cardwell
Jeff Miller
Mary Moriarty-Adams
Vop Osili
Leroy Robinson


Anonymous said...

This study group should include at least two members of the public (and not those who benefit from tax abatement).

Anonymous said...

Smart planning is said to be: Specific, Measurable (so missing as to be econometrically incoherent), Attainable, Relevant & Trackable (absence of same suggests illusive intent).

TIFs have become looting mechanisms for clubby or crony "capitalists," merely playing at what's supposed to be a legitimate, free market.

Anonymous said...

I nominate Pat Andrews and Gary Welsh. That give you public input from people who represent the two major parties, both sexes, and more importantly, have shown a consistent pattern of keeping current on local issues while putting the interests of the public before any party.

Should they not want to serve, I'd very much be interested in their suggestions for a substitute(s).

Jon said...

When Mahern proposed this the other day it wasn't exactly well received by our current leaders. One of the comments was this could lead to a slowing down of new building and maybe stifle development altogether. Just maybe we need to slow down development until we know some of the facts afterall we are the ones who get the bills.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Pat, I would like to see this Commission explain the percentage of the tax base of Marion County that now falls within a TIF district, particularly after the huge land grab that took place during the closing month of last year's council to create several very large TIF districts, and disclose the financial impact that has in revenue losses. I'm tired of hearing folks like Jackie Nytes complain about tax caps shrinking the local tax base, while she and others voted to expand the size and scope of TIF districts within the city to the detriment of taxing districts other than the city.

Anonymous said...

Pat identified several reasons the city is having a trend of lower revenue and reduced public services.

Privatization of the parking meters and the water company.

The never ending whole created at the CIB from poorly negotiated agreements with sports teams.

A series of unsustainable, one time short term financial fixes that have left us with even more debts.

You can only run so long before your troubles catch up.

Crossed said...

I think including the Bond Bank director is a mistake. Unless the position is appointed by the Council, then it is just another lackey vote for the mayor.