Progress on projects within Monett's tax increment financing (TIF) districts and the financial health of the projects paid for by sales tax revenues under the TIF program were reviewed at the recent quarterly meeting of the Monett TIF Commission.
General satisfaction was expressed in work done on the Eisenhower Bridge project, which opened for public use in April. The TIF program joined the city's undertaking to build a bridge over the railroad tracks on Eisenhower, a non-TIF project, by adding in replacement of the bridge over Clear Creek, which had badly deteriorated over the past 10 years. Combining both bridges in one bid provided savings that made the entire project more affordable.
Engineer Kevin Sprenkle reported the city got $265,000 from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad and $805,000 from the Missouri Department of Transportation's Highway Safety Fund for closing the railroad crossing at Central Avenue. Additional money went into the Eisenhower project from grant money approved in 1995 to finish the Greenways Trail around the city.
One more payment of around $18,000 will be due to Snyder Construction before the final bill on the Eisenhower project is paid off, Sprenkle said. Additional reseeding had to be done on some of the slopes.
City Administrator Dennis Pyle said a map of the entire Greenways trail has been posted on the city's website. Signs have been ordered to better identify the related network of sidewalks.
City crews are still finishing the last stretch of Greenways sidewalks between the municipal golf course and Eisenhower. Sprenkle said that should be done by the end of July. Trail users will cross Highway 60 on the west side of Eisenhower but now will not have a push button crossing to change the lights in their favor. An electric signal costs around $20,000, he said.
Once the Central Avenue railroad crossing fencing has been erected around the site, the city west of the Chapell Drive crossing will become a quiet zone, said Pyle. Trains will no longer blow whistles going through town. Sprenkle said the railroad also agreed to upgrade the Chapell Drive crossing when Eisenhower was done. He expected upgrade work could take a year.
According to billing numbers provided by Sprenkle, the $7,523,970.44 cost of the Highway 60 project came out to $17,000 less than had been budgeted.
TIF Chairman Mark Nelson praised MoDOT for closely tracking the cost of asphalt, which was an open expense due to the way the construction contract was written. Steps taken to adjust the project when oil prices spiked last summer held down the final cost.
Nelson said it now appears the old bridge over Waldensian Road on Highway 60 will have to be replaced in the next 10 years. Construction crews made significant repairs that should make the bridge last that long, he said.
Good news from MoDOT meant more savings for the city. Nelson said the state had agreed to provide the $1 million reimbursement for improvements done on Highway 60 in the original TIF project around the Walmart Supercenter by Oct. 1, 2010. Nelson has been informed the state will make that payment by September of 2009. Paying off the bill early will save the city at least $20,000 in interest.
"It's a nice thing. We certainly want to say thanks to MoDOT," Nelson said.
Payment for the latest widening of Highway 60 was due to come from MoDOT during fiscal year 2011. Nelson said the city will again ask for the money to be paid at the beginning of the state's fiscal year, which begins on July 1. If the money comes through early again, more interest savings will be possible, he added.
In 2011, the city will be able to refinance its TIF bonds for the newest Highway 60 debt. Nelson was optimistic that after the MoDOT portion of the innovative financing payment was made, the city could improve upon the interest of approximately 4.5 percent now being paid on the bonds.
A major issue for review at the meeting was whether the city could keep making its bond payments in light of the 10 percent drop in sales tax income recorded in 2009. City Administrator Pyle said that for the first TIF district, which encompasses Highway 60 from Chapell Drive to Eisenhower, there is an adequate reserve to cover payments this year even if the sales tax situation does not improve.
Pyle had not yet calculated how a 10 percent drop in sales tax would impact the TIF if the decrease continued into the next fiscal year.
Payments on the debt for the second TIF district, limited to the vicinity around Lowe's, are more at risk, involving a much smaller source of sales tax revenue. Debt for the second TIF district is structured differently, requiring all revenues go into paying off the debt----a "super sinker fund"----as opposed to building up a reserve of available funds that could be used for other projects.
Pyle said last year the city had been able to make an unscheduled $500,000 payment on the debt principle. Only $200,000 is still needed to make the scheduled interest payment this year and he felt there would be sufficient funds for this year's obligations.
The Lowe's store has been able to support debt payments with an upbeat sales history. Nelson told TIF commissioners the Monett store was the top generating store in the Lowe's system two years ago, and last year it was number three.
"The manager still feels the Monett store will be able to continue its growth," Nelson reported.