Monday, March 03, 2014

Mishawaka Going All In On Expanded TIF, Fearing State Legislation

Municipalities across the state of Indiana continue to gut their tax bases to finance favored capital projects by expanding the areas within their taxing districts that are contained within tax increment finance ("TIF") districts. Mishawaka officials are considering a plan that would add 479 acres to two existing TIF districts on the city's north and south sides and combine the TIF districts into a single, larger district. Mishawaka's TIF districts have a perpetual existence, and city officials fear that pending state legislation may set a mandatory expiration date on the life of a TIF district according to the South Bend Tribune. City officials are looking for a way to fund $28 million in capital projects the city's voters turned down at the last election. More than 12% of the city's total assessed valuation is now contained with a TIF district. The plan call for adding public lands to the district, while releasing some areas currently within a TIF district that are expected to experience little or no revenue growth.

. . . As city staff tried to redraw new TIF boundaries, they had trouble deciding where one district would end and the next would begin, Prince said.
By forming a single district, he said, the city isn't looking to shift financing so that more dollars from the city's north side pay for projects in the south -- or vice versa.
Rather, he said, a single district would combine the funding so that bigger projects could be done anywhere within the boundaries without having to borrow. In other words, he said, it would mean "better cash flow." . . .
Umbaugh and Associates estimates that, if approved, the new TIF boundaries would generate between $17.5 million and $21 million per year. That depends on the district continuing to see growth each year that's consistent and similar to recent years, Julien said. And it figures in the state's Circuit Breaker tax caps.
By comparison, the revenue from the city's two districts was a total of $22.6 million in 2013. The highest revenue was $24.6 million in 2008 . . .
City officials have been working on the proposed changes for most of a year, but they're pushing for approval now before some proposed Indiana laws have the chance of passing and taking effect.
The state bills could put a major crimp in the city's TIF districts.
Senate Bill 118 would set expiration dates on certain TIF districts -- possibly 2025 -- including some areas in Mishawaka that have no expiration.The same bill also would prevent TIF from being spent on telecommunications equipment like fiber optics cables and related equipment. With almost every new road that the city builds with TIF, Prince said, it also installs a conduit where telecommunications companies can later come to pull through their fiber optics -- cheaper than having to install the conduit afterward.
There's likely no way of escaping the effects of S.B. 118 if it passes, Prince said. But he said the city believes its proposed changes could get grandfathered in if the following bill passes.
House Bill 1266 would prohibit a city from enlarging a TIF district in a way that 1.) would cause the total TIF areas within a county to exceed 12 percent of the county's area or 2.) would cause the total assessed value of TIF areas in the county to exceed 12 percent of the assessed value in the county. But there's an exception to both: Either can happen as long as each of the taxing units in the TIF areas pass resolutions that agree to the change.
St. Joseph is one of six Indiana counties that have already reached 12 percent in either category, Prince said . . .
Indiana is marching rapidly towards the catastrophic conditions that occurred in the state of California where local government officials kept expanding TIF districts to the point that many local governments could no longer fund basic services and public pension obligations, forcing some to file bankruptcy. The law was so abused the California legislature repealed the state's law authorizing the use of TIFs. California was the first state in the union to use TIFs, which were originally designed only to assist development areas in blighted areas. As we've seen in Indianapolis and Carmel, TIF districts have been created in the most booming areas of the community in an effort to grab as large of a share of property tax revenues as possible to bolster slush funds local officials tap to finance development projects of their large campaign contributors. Bond lawyers and financial advisers based in Indianapolis, which earn lucrative fees from projects financed with TIF dollars and contribute boat loads of money to local government officials, are always encouraging local officials to expand their reliance on TIF districts.

No comments: