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How TIFs work focus for Kiwanis meeting

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mark Nelson, Monett's chairman of the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Commission, at right, spoke to members of the Monett Kiwanis Club this week about public improvements funded through the TIF and the mechanics of handling funds. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
Details about Monett's improvements on Highway 60 and the mechanics of tax increment financing were explained for the Monett Kiwanis Club this week. Mark Nelson, chairman of the city's Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Commission, was the guest speaker.

Nelson recently spoke before the Missouri Highway Commission at its recent meeting at the District 7 office of the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) in Joplin. He brought his PowerPoints presentation on the work accomplished on widening Highway 60 to the Kiwanis meeting.

To address the full scope of work undertaken by the TIF Commission, Nelson took the audience back to 1996 when the TIF was created.

"Go back and ask yourself what Highway 60 looked like 10 and 12 years ago," Nelson said. "Would you have seen improvements around the community except for MoDOT stepping up and the TIF?"

Nelson emphasized Monett's TIF has concentrated entirely on public projects, such as roads, bridges and related infrastructure. The only work done on private property was one regional detention basin. Businesses seeking reimbursement for storm water projects have been eligible to receive reimbursement from sales tax generated at their own operations.

Projects undertaken have been weighed for their benefits, Nelson said. Safety has been a primary concern, along with community and regional economic stability. Effort has been made to position the city and the area to support diversified growth.

"A TIF is just another way to fund projects," Nelson said. "It does not create new taxes. Revenue is generated from economic activity."

Nelson pointed out the TIF has not taken away tax income that existed prior to its establishment. Income from property taxes and previous sales taxes still go to the taxing entities. By stimulating more economic activity, the TIF has increased revenue for all parties, Nelson said.

Laws on TIFs have also changed significantly from 1996, Nelson said. The original law invited a fishnet effect, casting a wide net over an area then doing projects all at once. Monett's original TIF will expire in 2019 and end the process.

Monett's second TIF fell under different guidelines. The redevelopment area was broken into smaller areas. If a project is started in any of the smaller areas, that area is activated into a 23-year TIF on its own. All the redevelopment areas will have to be activated by 2015 to function like a TIF. Each will expire separately. So far only the Lowe's project has been activated.

By committing to making improvements under its TIF program, Nelson said the city has amassed additional debt of up to $11 million. TIF debt is not general obligation, he indicated. If the bonds are not paid off by economic activity after 23 years, the bondholders will not be paid. The city is not obligated for the balance.

The main goal of the TIF is to make sure the outstanding debt will be paid. Debts were already refinanced in 2004, when interest rates were more favorable than in 1996.

"We were able to do more with less cost," Nelson said, because of refinancing.

Mayor Jim Orr told Kiwanians that the city is committed to making the TIF work. The city earmarked all of its revenues from the second TIF district, not just half the sales tax income, to paying off the obligations.

"Only the council and [City Administrator] Dennis [Pyle] knows the amount of time Mark spends on this," said the mayor. "We appreciate his efforts and his employer for letting him give his time for us."

"It takes all of us to make this community grow," Nelson said. "It doesn't take much to tear it down."

Kiwanis President Lisa Balmas presided at the meeting. Rod Anderson was serving as program chairman.

In club news, the club's annual installation banquet will be held on Sept. 24 at Grant's restaurant. The next Peanut Day effort to collect donations for charity work will be on Sept. 25.

The Monett Kiwanis Club meets weekly at noon on Tuesdays for a meal and a program, generally at Happy House restaurant.

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