Civil Discourse Now

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"Say No to TIFS in Broad Ripple"? NO! Say "no" to TIFs anywhere.

   Acronyms are handy. They short-hand complex topics. If a person, in a confident voice, throws three or four acronyms into a conversation, some people are more prone to accept the person's opinion as informed. If the person also quotes representatives of several prominent forces in a community, the person's statements on the given topic appear, on surface, validated.

   There is a FaceBook page captioned "Say No to TIFs in Broad Ripple." TIFs are Tax-Increment Finance districts. As noted by a blogger in Chicago:  "TIFs are a program originally designed to spur development in areas that are depressed, run down and where the market would not normally countenance investment. We're talking about severe blight. The TIF program allocates public dollars to private businesses in order to create projects that would not have happened unless that money was made available." Tom Tresser, "Tax Increment Financing - A Bad Deal for Taxpayers," 3/30/11. He writes about the way in which taxes RISE in non-TIF areas because of the use of TIFs.

   From "The Journal of Property Tax Assessment & Administration," Vol. 6, No. 4, "Creation vs. Capture: Evaluating the True Costs of Tax Increment Financing," by Sherri Farris, former senior research analyst, and John Horbas, former Director of Rsearch, Cook County (Illinois) Assessor's Office: "If the property value for all Chicago TIF districts had been included in the base for tax year 2006, the city composite tax rate would have been 11 percent lower.  This rate has been estimated by returning all EAV (estimated assessed value) currently allocated to TIF to the general tax base, and recalculating tax rates for each of the taxing agencies, and then the composite tax rate including all of them. The rate for 2006 with all TIF EAV returned to the tax base would have been 4.732 percent, whereas the actual 2006 rate was 5.302 percent. This means that including TIF EAV would also have reduced individual tax bills by 11 percent in 2006."

   TIFs leach money from the general fund to pass on to developers. The original concept was TIFs would help solve problems of "urban blight." Broad Ripple had gotten along fine without TIF money. Now we have a doomed parking garage on College Avenue, built for a major campaign contributor of Mayor Ballard's, and an impending Whole Foods to accompany it. As to the former, people do not want to park across College Avenue on a Saturday night to go to establishments then walk back across College Avenue to a parking garage. As my crim law prof explained, parking garages are places muggers like. If TIF monies were to be used for development, a la original purposes of TIFs, that money would have been spent down at what formerly was the Meadows. We should not say "no" simply to TIFs in Broad Ripple, but "no" to TIFs anywhere.

   The so-called bottom line is that politicians have been given this really neat acronym to toss around. They also are the equivalents of college freshmen given credit cards. About one in 50---maybeMaybeMAYBE---will behave responsibly and use the card only when necessary. The rest will whip out that card, throw and party, and write home for more money.

   Everyone should write to their State Rep and State Senator and say: present legislation to ban TIFs in Indiana, as did California after it invented, then saw the disastrous consequences of, TIFs. Write or e-mail your City-County Councilor. TIFs are, perhaps, the greatest threat to the financial well-being of Indianapolis, and any other municipality whose leadership gets a whiff of money to spend and look good before the next election and for which taxpayers several decades down the road still will pay..

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