Thursday, October 18, 2007

Morris TIF

This is what we have to say about the Morris TIF:

The Morris TIF has been abused ever since it was created. When the TIF district was drawn, it included virtually every piece of non-residential property in the city limits. No way could all of that land qualify for TIF status, but the City Council approved it anyway. Why? So they could maximize the sales tax rebate from the state.

The Council then proceeded to use the TIF money for any number of projects of questionable relationship or benefit to the TIF district. For instance, TIF money was used to separate the storm and sanitary sewers in the residential neighborhoods. Yes, that indirectly benefited the TIF area, but was it within the spirit of the law?

As for funding the municipal building, that was not included in the original TIF plan. However, the city added it to the plan on the eve of the statute change in 1999. So, no matter your opinion of the city hall project, the city is legally free to proceed.

Morris is not unique in its abuse of TIF; citizens and taxing bodies across the state have been complaining for years about their local TIFs. The General Assembly has occasionally tinkered with the statutes; but there is an army of TIF lawyers advising the legislature, and then counseling municipalities, about how to maximize and leverage TIF income (and about creative ways to use the money once they get it.)

In conclusion, the City Council is going to use TIF funds to construct the new city hall. They have the money, they have designated it for this purpose, and they have the law and the power brokers on their side. Whether this is an appropriate use of TIF funds is irrelevant. Save your energy for the battle when they try to extend the life of the TIF beyond 2009.