Composed 7 May 2011 How else could we use this money?

 

 

Aquatic Center Votes
Monday's Cost
Operating Cost
Case Studies
Site Development
Project Costs
Opportunity Cost
Disclaimer
My Conclusion

References
Master Plan
Monday's Agenda
Agenda Page
Web Broadcast
TIF Summary
TIF Map

 



What is the opportunity cost of the project?  The mayor has stated publicly that this project would not cost tax payers money.  His logic is that TIF money isnít really tax money.  But this money could be used to pay for road or sewer construction in the TIF area.  Or it could be used to offset other capital improvements normally paid for by regular tax money.  So we have the opportunity for better roads, lower water rates or lower taxes. 

In the meeting where we first learned of this project the council declared this project would not be funded by our taxes.  However, TIF money is a form of our taxes we just call it by another name.  In fact, the TIF tax is subtracted from the taxes the city would normally collect.  The difference between the TIF tax and normal property tax is the city agreed to certain restrictions on how the TIF tax would be spent.   They did this to finance the building of the I-70 ramps.  

There are two main restrictions on TIF tax spending, the money will be spent on capital improvements and the capital improvements will be in the TIF district (the TIF district is the blue shaded area.  Change the zoom setting to see street names).  

So if there are restrictions on this money why should those of us not in the TIF district be concerned?  We should be concerned because this money could be used to pay for street and sewer maintenance within the TIF district.  If TIF money isn't used for street and sewer maintenance then street and sewer maintenance has to be paid for using property taxes or one of the other ways the city gets money. 

You can see this in the Aquatic Center project.  The city residents up in the North end of the city have had trouble with the pumping station for years.  Fixing this pumping station is something the TIF money could be spent on.  Instead the city is going to pay for this using the sewer fund.  So we lose the "opportunity" to keep our water bill low.  That is we will get the money from our water bill payments.  Which is one of the purposes of the water bill but it is also one of the purposes of the TIF fund. It works the same way for roads or other capital improvements. Not using the TIF money for normal capital improvements within the TIF district removes our opportunity for lower general taxes.  

Another opportunity cost missed is to pay off the debt of the I-70 interchanges (early).  Currently, the city is paying $300,000 a year servicing this debt. At the end of the loan the city will have a balloon payment.  Could these finance charges be avoided?  

I also wonder if it is possible to dissolve the TIF district if there is no debt to service.  The TIF district provided a great benefit in helping to improve the interchanges.  However, why would we want to permanently limit the use of the tax money generated in these areas?  Besides the TIF money goes to another agency and then the city has to coordinate getting that money back.  This other agency must be taking a portion of this money in order to pay their administration fees. If there is no debt to service can we dissolve the TIF district?  We lose that opportunity if we finance the Aquatic center using the money we expect to collect in the TIF district. 

Finally, suppose the TIF money could pay for all the roads and sewer and there is still extra money in the fund. Or maybe even the residents would pay extra taxes for a recreational facility.  The council has not taken the time to show that the aquatic center is the recreational facility the city wants and they definitely have not put it in a place that makes sense to the residents.  In all my campaigning not one person has come to me and said "we need to develop more of the city's green space".  I've heard a dozen or so people tell me "what are we going to do with all these empty buildings".  It may cost more to condemn the old K-mart and build an indoor/outdoor Aquatic Center in that area, but city council should have looked at a project like this and shown us the cost difference.  A project in the commercial area of the 202 exchange probably has more potential to improve the city's business environment.  Residents were cheated out of the opportunity to consider if they are willing to support a project to revitalize blacktop instead of paving over fields.

Let me state again I am not currently a member of council.  I am not privilege enough to know what has been discussed in executive session.  

Summary: Council should present to the public the opportunity costs they are missing because of this project.  How much will property taxes have to rise or how much could they have fallen?  What other projects could have been funded using the TIF money?

 

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