Extended Comment on the Advisability of a South 4th Street TIF

I left a comment at DeKalb County Online in response to 5th Ward candidate Rob Fischer’s possible support for a new TIF. Says Mr. Fischer:

TIF’s are one of the most powerful tools municipalities have at their disposal to renovate neighborhoods. My wife and I were just talking the other day about how the city could use a Children’s’ Museum. Maybe something like that could be a catalyst (along with a TIF) for South 4th St. How much longer do we want to look at the old KFC building for?

My response at DCO (with a couple slight edits) to follow.

It is apparent to me (via EDC) that some folks at city hall would love to create a S. 4th TIF. Mr. Biernacki has a business acquaintance who is organizing other south side business owners and who has come out in support of a TIF.

I would not be surprised to find out that the Fairview annexations, the school district, and maybe even the WM proposed expansion have something to do with pushing for a south side TIF as well.

Here are the problems I have with a new TIF.

1) Timing. A S. 4th TIF would slurp property tax revenues from all local units of government during a time when they can least afford it. This includes starving our own city pension funds.

2) Use of TIF specifically in DeKalb. The amended TIF 1 has spent millions on the downtown while the neighborhoods surrounding it, also in the TIF, continue to rot. TIF 2 should have been used to remodel the police station a dozen years ago when space needs first were recognized as a problem.

3) Mark Biernacki. Remember when city staff pulled the Civic Campus Master Plan out of thin air? Who authorized it? Council did not ask for it. Instead, Mr. Biernacki or designee worked it out with the library to split the cost of this unasked-for site plan, which conveniently put the city’s amount ($11,854.05) under the threshold at which it would have to come up for public debate and a vote. How often are TIF funds used for these little projects out of the public eye? I think very.

4) Faulty rationale. Sure, Protano’s needs to be cleaned up but nothing can happen until the estate is cleared up. And even then, TIF IS NOT THE VEHICLE FOR THIS KIND OF PROJECT. There are serious contaminants to a depth of 18+ inches and the cleanup would suck all the life out of the TIF. This is a job for a great big federal grant. When it’s time, put our well-compensated lobbyist on it.

In short: I would fight a S. 4th TIF with everything I’ve got.

Related post: 4th Street TIF? Not on Your Life