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Council votes to keep TIF money

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Columbus City Council members modified a proposal to forgo $3 million in tax revenue next year, deciding instead to collect all of the money available for downtown development.

Mayor Kristen Brown asked the council last month to give up some revenue from one of the city’s tax-increment financing (TIF) districts for one year.

On Tuesday, council members instead voted to collect all of the revenue because there are several large projects coming through the pipeline.

And while the Columbus Redevelopment Commission had backed the mayor’s plan, a new state law means that since spending in the Central TIF District was projected to be less than half of revenue, the council’s say on the proposal is the final decision.

The mayor’s proposal would have allowed the school corporation, the library and other government entities to collect property taxes on a combined $127 million in excess assessed property value in the city’s Central TIF District for one year. That would have resulted in lower tax bills for businesses and for some taxpayers in Bartholomew County, both inside and outside the city limits.

But the plan also would have lowered the redevelopment commission’s projected TIF revenue in the district from $5.4 million to $2.3 million next year.

While Brown said that reduction still would leave ample cash in the fund, council members said they think $3 million could go a long way.

Council member Frank Jerome said the plan would have been “throwing away” $3 million in cash that could be used to pay for some of the projects the city is considering for TIF funds. Those include renovations of the Crump Theatre and the Custer-Nugent Amphitheater at Mill Race Park and the development of an industrial park at the site of the old Walesboro airport.

Since the projects that could receive TIF money are slated to cost up to $50 million in total, the city needs to have funds available when those projects eventually get the green light, according to council member Jim Lienhoop.

“We ought to start saving now,” Lienhoop said.

Council member Tim Shuffett said the plan would have had no positive impact on the “vast majority of individual taxpayers.” Instead, it would have affected mostly businesses, which already benefit from the TIF district, he said.

Frank Miller, the one council member who voted against keeping all of the revenue, said he still would not have given up the full $3 million. Instead, he would have supported giving up some money to make sure the redevelopment commission would be spending at least half of what it collected in TIF revenue, he said.

Miller was prepared to make a motion to pass through 20 percent of the assessed value, one-third of the amount recommended by the mayor and approved by the redevelopment commission. It would have been a good compromise, he said, and still would have complied with what the state was asking municipalities to do.

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