In the past several years, money collected and spent on projects in Greenwood, including the new aquatic center and renovations to the city building, has been a topic of debate.
Eight candidates seeking five seats on the Greenwood City Council disagree on whether money collected in tax-increment financing, or TIF, districts has been spent appropriately in the past and whether more money should be brought in through a new TIF district.
This fall, voters will choose from among three Republicans and a Democrat for three at-large seats on the council and also will vote in two district races, in which incumbents are being challenged by Democrats. Greenwood has the most contested races of any community in Johnson County. Residents in Franklin, New Whiteland, Prince’s Lakes and Trafalgar will not be voting this election.
TIF districts, how the money collected in them is spent and whether another should be created are key issues in the race for Greenwood City Council. Downtown redevelopment and planning the area around a new Interstate 65 interchange at Worthsville Road are also key issues.
In the past, money collected in the city’s TIF districts have paid for infrastructure projects, such as the expansion of Graham Road on the city’s east side and the new I-65 exit, and other projects, such as Freedom Springs Greenwood Aquatics Center and renovations to the city building, which used to be an office building before Greenwood moved in.
The council recently approved a new TIF district, which would stretch along State Road 135 between Whiteland and Stones Crossing roads, to collect tax dollars from new shops, restaurants and other businesses that are built in the future. That money could then be spent on projects to widen and improve roads, add a new fire station and improve the city’s sewer system on the southwest side of Greenwood.
Current council members Ron Bates and Bruce Armstrong both voted against creating the new TIF district and disagree with how TIF money sometimes has been spent.
Bates said the city already has enough TIF districts and estimates nearly half the city is included in a TIF district. He said the city is spending TIF money in areas that are outside of where it should be spent and on projects that the money is not intended to be spent on, such as the new aquatics center. Adding the new TIF district along State Road 135 isn’t needed to develop the area, because it will develop on its own, he said.
“I understand we have to look to the future to some degree, but it just seems out of control,” Bates said. “It’s the people’s money that we’re spending. People say it’s easier to spend others people’s money. I’m an advocate for the taxpayer.”
Armstrong said spending TIF money on the new interchange and the airport were appropriate, because they benefit the TIF districts. But the money for the new aquatics center should have come from somewhere else, he said.
He also is concerned about the impact TIF districts have on school districts. When a district is created, the tax money collected from new development is set aside for projects and does not go to other local governments, such as schools. That has had significant impacts on Clark-Pleasant schools and would impact Center Grove schools with the new TIF district along State Road 135, he said.
“We have seen what the TIF district has done to Clark-Pleasant. We need to not do it for (Center Grove) as much as we need to get rid of it for the Clark-Pleasant area,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong’s opponent, Ranjanpreet Nagra, a political newcomer who manages her father’s trucking company, also has concerns about how the TIF districts impact schools and other local governments, such as libraries.
She said she would need to learn more about the reasons why the city wanted to create the new TIF district along State Road 135 before she could say whether she supports it but also wants to be sure the money would be put to a good use and that schools and libraries don’t suffer.
“It is important our schools be properly funded. We should not slack on our education or libraries,” Nagra said.
Duane O’Neal, an attorney challenging Bates for his seat, said that the added value from new development in an area will benefit schools and other local governments eventually, though they do lose income until the TIF district expires, typically after about 25 years, he said.
The land along State Road 135 is an appropriate area for a TIF district because the money collected will help improve rural county roads and encourage businesses to move in. The new businesses will bring in more tax revenue than homes, O’Neal said.
As more development comes to the area around State Road 135, improvements will be needed to Honey Creek Road and other nearby roads, which are currently two-lane county roads, current city council members Brent Corey and Mike Campbell said. Both voted to approve the new TIF district.
Corey has voted against certain projects paid for with TIF funding, such as police cars and the aquatic center, because the money should be spent on infrastructure and ways to alleviate congestion. And that is why the new TIF district is needed, he said.
Money collected there can be spent to improve infrastructure, such as for sewers, and at the intersection of Smith Valley Road and State Road 135, where motorists have repeatedly complained about traffic issues, Corey said.
Campbell, who serves on the redevelopment commission, which approves the spending of TIF money, said that the area around Honey Creek Road needs improvements, such as a roundabout at Stones Crossing Road. Those projects cannot be done without TIF money, he said.
But he also said money spent on other projects that have been more controversial, such as the aquatics center, are appropriate uses of the money. The aquatics center is one of the city’s biggest assets and helps attract businesses that are looking for amenities in a community, Campbell said.
Wilson Mack, creative director for International Medical Group, who is seeking an at-large council seat, questioned whether the aquatics center was the best use of the money, especially in Indiana with a shorter summer season than other areas of the country. He said he would like to see the money spent on road repairs, which benefit everyone, and on improvements to downtown. He said he needs to learn more about the new TIF district along State Road 135 and why that is a valuable area to be developed.
Chuck Landon, who won the Republican nomination for an at-large seat in the primary election, said the city has been spending money from the TIF district in ways that aren’t what the law intended: downtown redevelopment and to prepare an area for development. He said he does not support the new TIF district along State Road 135 because that area is developing on its own, and a TIF district won’t impact that.
Greenwood appropriately spent TIF money to help develop the east side of the city and redevelop downtown, said Landon, who is a member of the Restore Old Town Greenwood board. But for other projects, he is disappointed he doesn’t see hard numbers, including a business plan, when requests are made for TIF money, he said.
“The city is reaching for TIF too quickly because it is easy to spend TIF money,” Landon said.
Education: Has degrees in history, finance and law
Family: Wife, two grown children
Work : Attorney
Political experience: Previous member of the board of aviation commissioners, current member of the plan commission since 1990, was judge of Greenwood City Court from 1997-1999.
About the job
Term: Four years
Duties: Approving city budget, setting city rules, approving rezoning requests and setting the plan for long-term development.
Voters can select one candidate for Greenwood City Council District 3.
Education: Bachelor’s in industrial engineering from GM Institute, master’s in mathematics from University of Waterloo, Ontario; Decatur Central High School graduate
Family: Wife, Susan; Sons Ryan, 18, Nick, 16
Work: Retired from General Motors, now works for Faurecia
Political experience: Served three terms on city council
Education: Indiana Central College associate and bachelor’s degrees in economics and business; Ph.D. American Institute of Naturopathic Medicine, MD as nutrition doctor; registered pharmacist, homeopathic pharmacy
Family: Wife, Carolyn
Work: Owned Nature’s Cupboard, before selling it years ago
Political experience: Greenwood Economic Development Commission member
Name: Brent Corey
Education: Bachelor of Science in public affairs
Family: Wife, Meagan, and two children
Work: Owner of Sizemore Insurance Agency
Political experience: Member of city council since 2008
Candidates for Greenwood City Council at-large
Voters can select three of the four candidates.
Name: Mike Campbell
Education: Two bachelor’s degrees in religion and business management
Family: Wife, two grown children, four grandchildren
Work: Retired. Previous business owner.
Political experience: Member of city council for four years
Ranjanpreet “Ranjan” Nagra
Education: Graduated from high school in California, bachelor’s degree in literature at California State, master’s in south Asian studies at University of Michigan
Work: Manages father’s trucking business
Political experience: None
Voters can select one candidate for Greenwood City Council District 4.
Name: Ron Bates
Education: Bachelor of Arts in history, master’s degree in education
Family: Wife and four grown children
Work: Part-time teacher at Suburban Christian School and adjunct professor at Indiana Baptist College
Political experience: Finishing third term on Greenwood City Council
Education: Whiteland Community High School graduate, Franklin College bachelor’s degree in psychology and political science
Family: Wife, Annie
Work: Creative Director for International Medical Group
Political experience: None