Friday, June 29, 2012

TIF Study Commission Wraps Up Its Work

With the 10th and final meeting, the TIF Study Commission wrapped up its work last night.  The vote was 5 to 2 to adopt proposed recommendations along with a very lengthy report that distilled the testimony presented.   To summarize this herculean effort effectively, I will cut this into three parts - the Commission itself, the ideas and facts collected, and the recommendations.

The 8 Commissioners were Councillors Steve Talley, Brian Mahern, Ryan Vaughn (and his replacement Jeff Cardwell), Auditor Billie Breaux (and her proxy Richard Hunt), State Representative Bill Crawford, MDC President Ed Mahern, City Controller Jeff Spaulding, and Bond Bank Director Deron Kintner.

All came to the table with their own perspectives, and the give and take was on the highest level - all to the gain of the public in this process.

The presentations were mostly in plain English, yet had an academic rigor to them. 

All of the meetings can be found archived on the WCTY webpage (click here and scroll down to the last category, "Special Events").  The 10 meetings are listed there.  I added up the time for all of the meetings and it came to 24 hours.  You can find all of the documents that formed the presentations on the TIF Study Commission webpage, organized by date.

Needless to say, all of the information from this 24 hours makes a thick document - even when distilled.  The draft of the Executive Summary has been posted online.  I'll put up a link to the final document when it is posted, as well.  The final document without the appendices comes to 86 pages.

I cannot finish this roundup of the Commission without paying respects to two members of the Council Staff.  First, Leslie Williams took copious minutes, which can be found on the TIF Study Commission webpage.  I think the amount of work involved in taking the minutes of a meeting, especially long ones, is often undervalued.  I know that is a job I studiously try to avoid doing in organizations because of the number of hours actually required. 

Second, Hope Tribble, the Council's CFO.  I cannot begin to guess at how many hours Tribble put into this Commission - along with doing her regular job.  It appeared to me that she invited the guests, set the agendas, provided presentation and agenda materials to all through email, got super quick responses to questions fielded through email, and wrote (and likely re-wrote numerous times) the report that is being issued by the Commission. She most assuredly was the secret weapon for this Commission and a key reason why it functioned at the high level it did.

From the last two meetings it was clear that there were two camps assembled on the Commission.  All seemed to agree to more transparency and more documentation for why a TIF District should be set up.  The camps were apparent when the discussion turned to recommendations that would put limits or more oversight on the use of TIF funds or would place time limits on the life of an existing TIF District.  The majority wanted to rein in the use of TIF dollars, provide more oversight, and limit the lifetime of existing TIFs so that more of these property tax dollars could flow to the various units of government to provide the services that have been strained due to the property tax caps that were implemented a few years ago.  The minority wanted to retain the 'flexibility' that the Ballard Administration now has in determining on what to expend any excess TIF funds and maximize the options for future Mayors to reactivate dormant TIFs - all with an eye to being nimble enough to remain competitive with other municipalities that compete for the same businesses.

The work of this Commission is the finest example of good government that I have witnessed in my years of closely watching Indianapolis' government.  Everyone who attended had to have learned something new, if not a lot of stuff that they did not realize before.  The meetings are archived on WTCY for review and the report is being finalized for release.  The recommendations of the Commission will need to be reviewed and acted upon by the Council, the Mayor, the MDC, and the State Legislature.  So, this is not the last you'll hear of the TIF Study Commission's work.  Like a rock thrown into a lake, the ripples will be around for some time to come.

Excellent job.  Well done all.

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