After two years, the answer is no.
The village of St. Joseph has voted not to proceed with a residential TIF district.
TIF stands for Tax increment financing and is a public financing method that is used as a subsidy for redevelopment, infrastructure, and other community-improvement projects. In the proposed residential TIF, houses would be developed and property tax dollars would be diverted from taxing bodies other than the village in order to complete projects the village deemed necessary.
Trustee’s Jim Wagner, Roy McCarty, Bob Rigon and Andy Gherna voted against the proposal.
“The finances aren’t straight forward,” Gherna said “And it does not appear to be an all around win for the taxing bodies.”
In December, St. Joseph-Ogden High School Superintendent Brian Brooks and St. Joseph Grade School Superintendent Todd Pence told the village board they would accept a plan that would see the districts receive 70-percent of the new tax dollars they would generate from the new property taxes within the TIF district.
The proposal was based off numbers provided by the developer Greg Millage regarding the number of houses he would build in a development if the village created a residential TIF. Millage’s 2017 plan called for land behind Prince of Peace Lutheran Church to include 64 lots, with 12 duplex condos and an assisted living facility.
Millage had been involved in a residential TIF district in 2003 in Tolono that allowed him to develop 44 lots.
Using those numbers, there would be $15.7 million in new tax revenue created. The schools proposed giving up $2.9 million over 23 years to help with infrastructure projects the village has deemed necessary.
At the time Pence said the schools felt if they received 70 percent of their tax revenue they could still function and educate children in the manner the community has come to expect.
Brooks said the school district supports the village voting down the Residential TIF at this time.
“We have been more than willing to work with the village if this was the direction they strongly wanted to go but from the beginning, we had a lot of concerns with the Residential TIF, he said. “They are very rarely good for schools over the life of the TIF. Our hope would be that the village does entertain looking at options to finance the drainage issues in St. Joseph and also continues to look for ways to begin the process of residential development in St. Joseph without a Residential TIF district.”
St. Joseph’s last residential development came in 2007, when the Crestview subdivision was built.
St. Joseph was originally looking at the TIF district as a way to fund infrastructure upgrades, but they feel they can fund those upgrades with sewer rate increases.
Mayor Tami Fruhling Voges said expanding the village’s sewer plant is a still a high priority for the village despite the TIF being voted down and she believes the expansion can be completed by increasing sewer rates. The village is currently having a sewer rate study completed to see how much rates would have to be increased to fund the expansion. Fruhling-Voges said storm water projects are also a high priority for the village.
“Douglas is the big one,” She said.”We will have to look outside of the box to fund it.”
Fruhling Voges had expressed concern regarding the TIF since it was proposed. Residential TIFs are rare.
“It is not what TIFs were designed for,” she said. “It’s for economic development.”
TIF districts are usually created when a municipality identifies an economically stagnant or physically declining area and determines that private investment is not likely to occur without public help. The one St. Joseph is discussing is different in that trustees were approached by the developer about creating it.
“They impact the other taxing bodies and it benefits a small part of the town.” Fruhling-Voges said.
Fruhling-Voges also said that she felt that since the board had been discussing it for more than two years without coming to the conclusion it was a good thing for the village, it was time to move on.
“We weren’t getting anywhere with it,” she said. “It needed to be thoroughly vetted. Time and time again negatives would come up. To get the public on board it would have been an uphill battle. We would have been having the same discussion for the next six months and to me that is all-around good indicator that it’s not a good fit.”