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Letter: City council must take closer look at TIF funding

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Note: The statements, views, and opinions contained in this letter to the editor are those of the author and are not endorsed by, nor do they necessarily reflect, the opinions of Daily Journal.

I have been a business owner and long time resident of the wonderful Greenwood area community who is very concerned with the current way the city is using the tax increment financing (TIF) district funds. TIF was established to help fund infrastructure, which would facilitate economic development by enticing companies to come to our area to establish or expand operations.

The funds generated from the TIF districts do not go into the general funds of the city, the local school districts nor the libraries. For years, the TIF funds in Greenwood were used for their intended purpose.

Previous city administrations worked for years to build new facilities for a pool and a city building, both of which are badly needed. Time after time, the citizens of Greenwood voiced their opinion that these items were not “in their means” to fund.

Thom Hord worked tirelessly to get a new pool built. Failing to get it done by using city resources, the city turned to the redevelopment commission to fund the pool and city building with millions of TIF dollars. Mayor Mark Myers stated (Daily Journal, Feb. 14) in his State of the City address that, “the city is in great shape”. Certainly the city can be in great financial shape if it continues to use TIF funding instead of relying on city tax revenue to fund its capital and operating expenses.

The mayor makes the case that a pool and new city building are important to attract new businesses. That may be true, but there is little doubt that a company considering locating to Greenwood is far more concerned about the quality of schools for their employees’ children than they are about pools, city buildings, bike paths, etc. The City of Franklin recognizes this and is using TIF funds to help their local school.

Thom Hord, speaking of Clark-Pleasant Schools said (Daily Journal, Feb. 20), “I think you have way overspent. Now you’re looking for help getting out of that.” Greenwood citizens voted more than once that a new pool and city building would be “way overspending,” but the city is building them anyway, not using city funds, but funds that were collected for the TIF district.

Mr. Hord seems to object to funding buses for schools. Mr. Campbell, city council member and redevelopment commission member, also said about using TIF funds for schools (Daily Journal, Feb. 1): “If we’re going to do something, probably the best option is to find specific projects to do for them. I don’t think I would want to get involved in buying buses on an annual basis.”

Yet the redevelopment commission, in August 2012, approved spending $832,989 for one fire truck and nine police cars for the city. If providing public safety funding is now considered a good use of TIF funds for economic development investment, funding for school buses should be even so much more important.

It appears that when the city wants more funding, they can simply establish another TIF district, thereby reducing even further the portion of taxes that will go to the schools and libraries in the near future.

Thomas Heller, Indiana Policy Review Foundation, commenting on TIF, states: “Did I mention that TIF districts work something like banks? Inside them, some make deposits while others quietly make withdrawals. All the while, the town’s economic-development in-crowd is busy dreaming up yet more debt-financed projects made “affordable” by the magic of TIF, which, sadly, is nothing more than eroding the base and passing higher taxes onto the unsuspecting.” http://inpolicy.org/2013/06/heller-indianas-favor-ridden-tif-districts/

I urge the city council to reject establishing new TIF districts if the funds from these districts are going to be used to fund city obligations rather than that for which they were intended. I also urge the redevelopment commission to share current funds with the schools and libraries.

Rep Milo Smith has mentioned (Daily Journal, Feb. 20) the pool as a bad example of how TIF dollars can be spent. He is correct when he questions how current funds are used and the state should place restrictions on their use so that the city does not continue to use TIF revenue as its personal slush fund.

Ray Buening


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