Friday, June 21st, 2013
By William Kincaid
Legislation addresses TIF funds
  CELINA - Two state representatives have introduced legislation that would allow property owners to opt out of Tax Increment Financing incentive districts, the economic development tool used heavily by Celina to pay for public infrastructure projects.
The city has nine TIF districts in which funds are received from any increase in taxable value on land or buildings in that district. The funds are directed into separate city accounts to pay debt, such as general obligation bonds, taken out to finance large-scale projects.
The city's current TIF districts are "grandfathered" and would not be affected by the proposed law, Celina Mayor Jeff Hazel said.  
State Reps. Jim Butler, R-Oakwood, and Tony Burkley, R-Payne, recently introduced House Bill 198, which would permit property owners to exclude their property from future TIF districts.
"Scenarios do arise where property owners who get included in district TIFs essentially end up assisting the financing of projects, which will benefit their competitors," Butler said in a press release. "House Bill 198 gives them a voice in the matter and will help them make the best decision for their unique economic interests."
The bill is sponsored by six other representatives and soon will be assigned to a standing committee of the House.
Hazel said he agrees that property owners should have a voice but fears such legislation could prove challenging if enacted.
"(It) could present potential financing challenges for costly improvements in the affected area if the community would lose out on the incremental increase of the tax increment financing funds of individual taxable parcel improvements," Hazel said. "A definite benefit of the proposed changes would be the inclusion of the property owners in the decision-making process on proposed public improvements."
Under House Bill 198, tax obligations would remain at the same rate for property owners who opt out of the TIF district, the mayor said. They would retain eligibility for TIF financing to improve the infrastructure around their own property, in what is called a parcel TIF. A parcel TIF uses only the increased value of one parcel to fund improvements, unlike a district TIF that uses only the increased value of multiple properties as its funding source.
City auditor Betty Strawn anticipates the city will take in $965,663 in the nine TIFs this year. As of April 30, $307,725 had been collected.
There will be enough money in the nine accounts to meet the city's financial obligations. For instance, the Grand Lake TIF is the sole revenue source for paying the city's $1.08 million debt on the West Bank walkway.
After loans are paid, remaining TIF money can be used for projects such as traffic lights, road work and water lines in the TIF districts.
Earlier this year Hazel said TIFs ultimately capture and retain local property taxes within each district - and away from the state – with Celina schools recouping its share. Twenty-five percent of each TIF's revenue is paid to the schools, he said.  Expected TIF collections for 2013 are,
• state Route 29, $23,282 this year, an 8 percent decrease from 2012. After the school is paid $5,820, the city will keep $17,462, which provides a $16,400 payment on the $266,850 debt on the state Route 29 road project.
• Staeger Road (which includes Walmart and Menard's), $435,322 this year, a 4 percent increase from 2012. After the school is paid $108,830, the city will keep $326,492.
Of that total, $17,000 will go toward a $310,025 debt on the Johnson Avenue project; $44,100 will go toward a $585,725 debt on the Main Street reconstruction project; and $35,264 will go toward a $450,700 debt on the Buckeye Street project.
• state Route 703, $144,321, a 1 percent decrease from 2012. After the school is paid $36,080, the city will keep $108,241.
• Haveman Road, $91,253, a 2 percent decrease from 2012. After the school is paid $22,813, the city will keep $68,440 and $63,965 will go toward a $568,475 debt on the Grand Lake Road project.
• Mersman, $28,561, a 1.5 percent decrease from 2012. After the school is paid $7,140, the city will keep $21,421.
• Grand Lake, $173,965, a 10 percent decrease from 2012. After the school is paid $43,491, the city will keep $130,474 and $84,000 will go toward a $1.08 million debt on the walkway.
• Market Street, $45,947, a 12.5 percent decrease from 2012. After the school is paid $11,487, the city will keep $34,460 with $18,150 going toward a $140,825 debt on a waterline replacement project.
• Kriegel, $8,763, no change from 2012. The city will pay $8,760 of TIF funds toward a $568,475 debt on the Grand Lake Road project. School district taxes are not applicable in this TIF due to a tax abatement.
• Thieman, $14,249, no change from 2012. The city will pay $12,000 toward $89,750 of debt on the Wayne Street project. School district taxes also are not applicable in this TIF due to a tax abatement.
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