The Franklin Development Corp. was created in 2008 by the Franklin City Council, redevelopment commission and economic development commission. Each panel named members to the organization’s board of directors.
The city also approved giving the new organization $5.6 million in tax dollars collected in the city’s tax-increment financing districts. Those special taxing districts collect property tax dollars from certain businesses and set the money aside, typically for infrastructure projects to promote economic development.
The money went to programs to give out grants to businesses, mainly to fix up the façades and fronts of their buildings, and loans for homeowners and businesses wanting to make repairs and for large-scale projects. And $600,000 was set aside for three years of operating expenses, which the organization made last for about four years.
That money is set to run out this year, and $500,000 set aside for grants also has run out.
Now Franklin city officials want more control over the agency. They also raised concerns about whether its work could be done more efficiently by the city or another agency.
Under a proposal by Mayor Joe McGuinness, the city could give the organization another $20,000 to $30,000 per year to help pay for operating expenses, such as program costs. And the organization would be significantly restructured, with the hope of keeping the Franklin Development Corp. to get grants the city isn’t eligible to obtain and to help pay for public projects from a different funding source than the city’s tax funds, he said.
The membership of the agency’s board also would be changed. Under the original setup, the seven board members would serve until they resigned, died or were removed by their own board. If the restructuring is approved, members of the agency’s board would serve terms of one to three years and would be named to the board by the mayor, three other city boards and possibly a community group. By having board members serve staggered terms, not everyone would leave or join the board at once.
McGuinness has been working with the board’s attorney to determine how those changes could be made. But under the current bylaws, the agency would have to approve changes to its board, board attorney Rob Schafstall has said.
Restructuring the agency to bring a greater degree of public oversight is important because we are dealing with taxpayer money. Yes, it comes from TIF district funds, but it’s still the people’s money.
It also is important that all actions be done in public view, so that people will have the greatest confidence that appropriate decisions are being made. A restructured board would help.
Downtown redevelopment is important to Franklin. The area is the heart of the city and one of its strongest assets. The redevelopment agency is helping improve the downtown area. Restructuring the agency can help ensure public support for its actions.