Friday, August 3, 2012

TIF Study Commission Recommendation # 3 : Upfront Criteria and Justification For Creating TIF

My third choice for common sense recommendation of the TIF Study Commission is that there should be a clearly defined evaluation process that provides key information justifying the creation of a TIF district and selection of the key project within that district.

This is what I have been relaying as the justification for "why this TIF - in this place - with this footprint - for this project".

The text of the recommendation is (click here and scroll to page 20 of the pdf):
m. Require a cost/benefit analysis, including a discussion of the following as part of all TIF project applications:
i. Use of a project TIF as compared to a TIF district, which has a wider footprint.
ii. A description of how the project plan aligns with the county-wide comprehensive planning document.
iii. A description of how the project plan aligns with the local/neighborhood planning document.
iv. A market analysis of the existing, possible or likely future free market unsubsidized private development in the proposed geographic area.
v. Analysis of recent changes in the assessed value in the geographic area of the proposed project.
There are several very important aspects to this recommendation. 

First is the question of why this project cannot provide enough growth in AV by itself, and the future tax dollars flowing from this parcel alone is not enough to finance the City's investment?  Why does this project require other property to secure the finances?  There should be reasons for a TIF footprint beyond it being a means to raise further cash.

There is reference to a county wide plan for economic development, which is envisioned as being akin to the land use plan referred to as the 'Comprehensive Plan'.  This is tremendously important.  As things stand now, investment follows influence, not need.  This has led to public mistrust of the motives of those in power to make decisions for TIFs, abatements, and other expenditures of public dollars.  Currently there is no plan, and that is simply absurd when you think about it.

The recommendation for a market analysis to show that public investment is necessary in order to spur private investment in an area is a requirement that is totally lacking today, but would be invaluable to the decision making and public trust that "this TIF, in this place, with this footprint, for this project" is appropriate.  If investment was already occurring in an area, then why take that growth in AV away from the taxing units and away from the taxpayers?

How very common sense is this set of recommendations - let's have a plan, let's set criteria for evaluation of proposed new TIFs, and let's make sure that investment wasn't already going to happen in the area before squandering tax dollars on a particular project.

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