Divide and conquer may be one strategy worth fighting for, but City of Greencastle officials definitely prefer the combine-and-shine approach.
Pursuing the theory that combined efforts can be more than the sum of their individual parts, city officials Wednesday completed a circuitous move to merge and expand the city's existing TIF (Tax Increment Financing) districts into one Greencastle Economic Development Area.
The Greencastle Redevelopment Commission conducted a public hearing on the matter at its Wednesday evening meeting at City Hall, and then unanimously adopted a resolution confirming a plan presented at an earlier meeting.
The combined TIF measure, which also has received the unanimous approval of the City Plan Commission and Greencastle City Council, unites the East Side TIF district and the Downtown TIF District into one area that expands west and south to connect with the Phoenix Closures property (formerly Greencastle Manufacturing/Oxford Automotive) via Veterans Memorial Highway, Washington and Jackson streets.
That will enable the city to use TIF funds to cover incentives promised to Phoenix when it purchased the abandoned industrial property last summer, rather resorting to a bond issue to pay for the city's share of an upgrade to South Jackson Street (Manhattan Road) and the CSX railroad spur site.
The combined TIF effort will also have long-term benefits for the city, Mayor Sue Murray suggested.
"By combining the districts, we have the resources to help with economic and community infrastructure needs wherever they may exist in the designated areas," she stressed.
"As we live with property tax caps and a declining AV (assessed valuation) this action will allow us to continue to make improvements that will help with economic development, our ability to meet the goals of the Stellar grant, and our community's infrastructure needs."
A good example of how combining TIF districts can provide greater flexibility is last summer's Percy Julian Drive repaving, sewer and drainage project. It likely wouldn't have happened to the scale that it did without the prior combining of the Indianapolis Road and Southeast (airport/industrial park) TIF districts into one area by the Redevelopment Commission in 2008.
"The construction cost is not something that would have ever fit into our Street Department budget otherwise," the mayor added.
Under Indiana law, a tax increment financing area enacted for economic development purposes is technically called an "Economic Development Area."
"Combining the Downtown and East Side TIF districts allows the Redevelopment Commission greater flexibility in implementing the projects for the areas," Greencastle/Putnam County Development Center Director Bill Dory explained. "Long term, it allows the commission to continue to undertake projects on a pay-as-you-go basis.
"Tax Increment Financing is the only significant tool available to communities to help fund infrastructure in support of business development," Dory added. "This support includes facilities such as roads that help increase access to business areas such as occurred with the improvements to Percy Julian Drive."
Tax Increment Financing enables local economic development officials to collect the property tax revenue attributable to increased assessed value resulting from new investments within a designated area (TIF district).
Once a TIF district is established, the property tax revenue attributable to only new assessed value within the district accrues to the redevelopment district rather than the traditional taxing units (schools, civil city, township, county etc). The new revenue can be used to pay for infrastructure or other improvements within the designated area.
Only Greencastle Community Schools Corporation Supt. Lori Richmond commented during Wednesday's public hearing, asking only that her interpretation of the TIF process be confirmed. She wanted to be certain that the move would not adversely impact funds designated for GCSC.
Dory stressed that the process applies only to new assessed value within the area.
"This commission has been very conservative and has only taken half what it could have in the past," Dory added. "We expect to stay within that range."
Richmond applauded the measure for "streamlining it into one district."
"Kudos for that," she added.