From: Thomas Heller
Two community projects, both involving old brick buildings, are presently on path to a public decision. One of the buildings, in disuse and disrepair for the past 20 years but now lavished with consultant attention and poised to pluck local heartstrings and sugarplum-fairy dreams, has an $11 million price tag attached.
Meanwhile, the other building, a former school that during those same 20 years has faithfully attended to the health services and needs of a significant cross-section of our population, has received the “tin-cup treatment.” Its governing entity has shaken out a little over $3 million.
Doesn’t this sound all-so-familiar? It’s no different with the ad hoc nature of these projects. Both are the consequence of postponing decisions until conditions change. Meanwhile other needs go unaddressed and unplanned for.
What were the changed conditions for each?
For the Crump it seems to be the healthy pile of cash that has built up in the Redevelopment Commission’s TIF accounts.
They’re harvesting almost $6 million a year now, and a balance of $12 million in uncommitted cash is projected by the end of 2014. (What they’re unwilling to acknowledge, however, is they’ve only earned about half that money. That’s because the curious math of TIF has been diverting into their pockets tax base from other tax districts — the county, city, schools and library. The TIFs now collect over half the total property taxes paid within their boundaries.)
For the county health annex, what’s changed is the county can’t kick the can of this building’s safety and functionality down the road any further. Unlike the Crump however, there’s no pot of TIF gold at the end of the county’s rainbow. Once the annex is replaced, the need to fix or replace the county’s aged garage will still remain.
If there’s a more stark contrast or sharper illustration of this community’s bipolar personality, I can’t think of one. It leads me to wonder about our priorities and those who set them. It’s enough to make a grown man cry.