Today is

Friday, May 20, 2016

Things To Watch For After The Janesville TIF District Rubber Stamp

Here are several things to watch for a few months after Janesville's city council rubber stamps the downtown TIF District on Monday.

The first thing to watch for are whiny council members, city administrators, the city manager, even school district and county officials (area schools and county government budgets will also be affected by the TIF) start complaining about budget shortfalls and the difficult cuts they may have to make to balance the next budget. We'll hear the typical scatter-shot blame game followed by talk for the need of a municipal sales tax or other revenue raising gimmicks including new tax hike referendums.

So, watch for the whine and the referendums.

The second item to watch for will be a spike in contested property tax bills from downtown property owners. This won't happen in a few months of course, but once those new sizable assessments start showing up in their 2017 and 2018 bills on properties with little direct improvements, it'll be hard for even the Gazette to censor the rage.

Of course much of the perception will be real enough to point blame on the TIF District since administrators have claimed the core purpose of the TIF is to increase assessed values (taxes) in the district by $100 million so they could collect an additional $1.5m in taxes a year over the 2016 bill. There's no getting away from that narrative, but by then it will be too late to complain.

The third item not just to watch for, but "watch out for" is the real possibility that downtown property values won't rise as rapidly or to the levels anticipated.

Keep in mind Janesville's downtown is already highly developed and the fact that all TIF Districts are not created equal. That means if TIF values flatten or face a sudden downturn, it will be much worse on Janesville taxpayers than the average TIF because the city intends on issuing bonds collateralized on the speculation of rising downtown property values to pay for up to $45 million worth of "amenities" and corporate welfare programs they have planned for Forward Janesville's membership.

So not only will city taxpayers have to pay for the rising costs of local operations over the next twenty years or so, property taxpayers could get a double-whammy by suddenly finding themselves paying off the bonds for the entire "ARISE" program. If the TIF collapses, the cost would add at least one million a year to the city budget at a time when trying to find or cut $30,000 is worse than pulling teeth.

The fourth item will be a new push by city administrators to privatize public operations in a backwards effort to cut operational expenses and lower costs. There's actually much more, but I don't want to overkill.

Of course, some of the things mentioned above have already been acknowledged in public discussions. However, instead of city officials proposing new ideas to solve those problems, they have taken a path to exacerbate and hasten their arrival.

Again, the things to watch for won't happen immediately, but they will be unmistakable when they do.


Anonymous said...

I read a Gazette article on this and it sounds like downtown business owners are very enthusiastic to raise taxes on themselves, so I’m surprised they rejected a BID a few years ago.

As long as the taxes they raise are on themselves, I don’t oppose it. I’d encourage them to double the amount they pay if that’s what they want. Knock your socks off.

Lou Kaye said...

Anon, I’m with you on that. Anyone who wants to unilaterally raise their own taxes – nobody stop them!! But a TIF District affects everyone and the more of them a city has and greater the district size, the more a greater tax burden is placed on those outside the TIF to pay for city services. It is puzzling they rejected a BID to generate about $150K annual, but are excited to pay $1.5M annual. The only answer is they’ll have a much larger pool of captive taxpayers to tap into with the TIF than with a DDA membership BID.

If they're so sure about the support, allow the $45M funding proposal for ARISE to go to referendum. Calling it a TIF District agreement is willfully deceptive.

I would live with the referendum result.

Post a Comment