Walmart has been reimbursed for about 53 percent of eligible project costs since the big box retailer was built in 2007 near 175th and I-35. This is way ahead of the maximum 20 year payback period originally associated with the project.
About $129,000 was paid to Walmart in September. Year to date recapture of sales tax associated with eligible Tax Increment Finance project funds is just over $638,000, according to Laura Gurley, finance director.
The accelerated payment plan is fine, said Kristina Harrison, city council, as long there is no change in the current environment.
“In my opinion, we are handling this TIF and the repayment as we should, but I cannot say if we are doing this at the rate that
was originally expected,” she said. Harrison was not on the council when the original TIF was discussed.
The city’s 2013 total budget for sales tax is just over $3 million, including city and county sales and use tax.
Overall sales tax collection has improved over last year, Gurley said.
Tax generated from the half cent park sales tax is not recaptured for the TIF, Gurley said. The 2013 proposed budget included a note that about $200,000 would need to be transferred into the Park Department budget to cover an estimated shortfall. The department’s budget is about $2.1 million.
The council in office when the TIF is repaid in 2016-17 will determine how to use the additional funds, which could be about $1 million annually for the TIF.
Chris Morrow, city council, said if the debt is repaid by 2016, and water and wastewater is incorporated into the Electric Utility Board as the current council has discussed, the additional funds could go to streets and storm water.
According to the 2013 budget, there has been no contract curb replacement or pavement resurfacing on residential streets since 2007 due to funding limitations. In addition, the public works budget notes “lack of funding for the maintenance of public infrastructure (streets, storm water, water and wastewater (utilities)” as a continued issue. Public works 2013 budget is about $1.7 million.
Harrison said that along with the additional money from the Walmart TIF, there would also be additional revenue for city coffers from debt that will be paid off for the Kill Creek plant.
In a written statement, Harrison outlined her priorities for the council’s upcoming visioning, or what a future council might want to take into consideration.
These priorities included:
-a cash reserve policy, and building reserves to an agreed upon level; -maintenance, water, wastewater, and streets need to have a yearly maintenance amount that is maintained at a consistent level percentage wise, year over year;
-capital projects, the current unfunded capital projects need to be prioritized and each identified project needs to be slotted into the upcoming budgets;
-property tax rates\utility rates, the bottom line needs to continually be assessed for opportunities to lower tax and utility rates.
Harrison also said she believed a specific TIF policy needs to be established to specify eligibility.
“While evaluating lowering taxes is important, I think that something we should focus on right now is any opportunities that we have to minimize or prevent some of the stated increases that will be needed to support the school and Gardner-Edgerton Sewer project,” Harrison said.
Currently the city does not have a specific TIF policy.
“I think there is confusion regarding options for economic development in the way of TIF’s, abatements, etc.,” Harrison said. “I think that clearly outlining policies in these areas as well as criteria for determining what/who qualifies is critical.”
Generally, property is eligible for a TIF if it is considered blighted.
The Walmart TIF project included:
-removal of Conestoga’s sewer treatment ponds
-intersection improvements including 56 Hwy, Cedar Niles, and 175thStreet
The project also served as an area business incubator because of those improvements, Gurley said.
For example, a Burger King has been built on the site.
A TIF project is generally defined as a public financing method that is used for subsidizing redevelopment,infrastructure, and other community-improvement projects.
When an increase in site value and private investment create an increase in tax revenues,that is a tax increment. A TIF dedicates tax increments within a certain area to finance the debt to pay for the project. A TIF can be used to channel money in distressed, underdeveloped, or underutilized areas where development might not occur otherwise.