Tuesday, August 7, 2012

TIF Study Commission Recommendation # 5 - Public Access To TIF Accounting

For my fifth choice of a common sense recommendation from the TIF Study Commission, I am bundling a couple of items that are meant to 'establish transparent financial practices, accounting, reporting and monitoring'.

These include creating the types of data that should be monitored for established TIF Districts, including whether goals are being met, creating a standardized database for evaluation of the performance of the TIFs, and making it easily available to the public on a City TIF website.

Remember, Indy's TIF districts :
* consume over one tenth of all the assessed value of all the real estate in Marion County
* generate roughly $100 million in property tax revenues every year
Compare that to the roughly $340 million sent to the City/County coffers from property taxes and you can see what a huge fraction has been set aside, and which the rest of us taxpayers must make up with higher taxes until we hit the protection of the tax caps.

With the gargantuan size of our collective TIF Districts, monitoring them and making the data regarding them public, should be of the highest priority.

The exact wording is (click here and scroll to page 20 of the pdf) :
2) Establish transparent financial practices, accounting, reporting and monitoring. Specifically, the MDC, in coordination with the Controller and Bond Bank, should:
a. Engage a third party review of all TIF financials and documentation to establish a uniform documentation, reporting, tracking and monitoring system and to document Marion County process and practices in a Marion County TIF Handbook; Create a uniform application that will be used to capture TIF information, preserve institutional memory and monitor project outcomes (number of jobs, for example) in comparison to agreed upon outcomes.

b. Build a TIF database for the collection of consistent information which can be used in the evaluation and analysis of TIF transactions and data.

c. Create and maintain a TIF website which would be a repository of the TIF data and information made available to the public.
I can tell you that the lion's share of the data about TIFs that I have gathered over the years has come from the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance, where some must be reported.  Our local "transparent" Ballard administration is very slow to give out information.  So, a website that must be maintained with required data would bring TIFs out of the shadows and into the sunlight.  I am always in favor of that sort of thing. 

Want to see how the money in the TIF near you was spent last year?  Look it up online.  If you don't know what they are doing, how can you voice your opinion and help change the direction, if need be?

Monitoring is important beyond the public access point.  If the City isn't watching what these huge financial vehicles are doing, we stand to get surprised.  More than two people should be able to review the performance numbers, as well.  It bears repeating that, combined, our TIFs cover about 1/10th of all taxable property in Marion County and generate about $100 million in property tax revenue each and every year.  The ongoing health of these districts affect us all - as they are backed with the moral obligation of the City and any associated debt WILL be paid, no matter whether that means services have to be cut to pay off the bonds or not.


Anonymous said...


100 million in property tax revenues from TIFS - and the rest of the county outside TIFFED areas contributes 340 million dollars of property tax revenue. So, the TIFFED areas are approximately 30% of the unTIFFED areas or about 23% of the total (440=340+100?

So, how is that equivalent to 10% of the assessed valuation. I understand that there are varying tax rates throughout the county, but shouldn't the assessed value percentage be reasonably close the property tax percentage.

Am I missing something, if so, what?

Had Enough Indy? said...

anon - there are other recipients of property tax revenues --- schools, library, IndyGo, townships.

I do not have the total amount of property tax revenue split amoung all taxing units, but would not be surprised to see about $1 b divided between them all.

The $340 million number is "only" the amount collected on behalf of the City and County government.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I think of city and county government as everything (even though it is not) Libraries, buses etc. should just be part of the city and even the county should be part of the city.

So, I automatically assumed you were providing the total tax collections for everything. I'll read more closely next time.

Though, I guess that makes my point in a different way. If the city is skimming 100 million of property tax revenues for TIFs, it is transferring wealth equal to 30% of taxes collected for the city/county entities to benefit developers and not the general public. That is obscene!

Had Enough Indy? said...

And the Mayor wants 6 more. Gravy train time for his favorite developers and donors.

It is curious that for the Mass Ave deal they have 3 proposals that have been sitting on their desk for a couple of months - yet they refuse to release them so that the public can figure out what is being promised and to whom.