News Section: Local Government
County Moves to Roll Two CRA's into a TIF
BRADENTON --The Manatee County Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) is a public entity that was created in 2002 to revitalize its central neighborhoods and commercial corridor. The CRA is funded by any increases in tax revenues caused by rising values. It is then spent through the annual appropriation to implement the redevelopment plan within the individual CRA district boundaries. The county is moving to consolidate its two CRA zones and additional areas into a lager Tax Increment Financing (TIF) zone that could mean big changes for the way such funding is distributed.
At Tuesday's BOCC meeting Cheri Coryea, Director of the Neighborhood Services Department, presented a follow-up presentation to an August 20, 2013 work session, outlining Community/District plans that proposes the new TIF district. The Urban Land Institute (ULI) report is often cited to reenforce redevelopment programs county officials look to implement in the near future. The proposal to establish a new broad-based TIF for the entire southwest portion of Manatee County was one of the ULI recommendations.
In March of last year, ULI delivered that report. It was requested by county administrator Ed Hunzeker to assist in the "How Will We Grow" (HWWG) endeavor the county is now pursuing. Both the South County CRA and the 14th Street West CRA were created in 2002, and lay within the boundaries of the proposed TIF. To finalize the Southwest Area TIF, the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) must dissolve both CRAs.
Commissioners Gallen and DiSabatino weren't convinced the momentum of community investment in the dissolved CRA districts would continue once the Southwest Area TIF is established. In the TIF plan, unspent CRA funds -- from both of the dissolved CRAs -- will be segregated and placed in the county's General Fund, with only a promise from Commissioners that those dollars would live-out their intended obligations without misuse.
A CRA is a kind of TIF, and both create an increment, or addendum, between the property tax revenues generated prior to the establishment of a TIF district and the amount of property tax revenues generated after the establishment of the TIF. The motive behind establishing the single TIF, is said to be the improvement of economic development that will stimulate further development in an area where tax revenue growth has failed to keep up with revenues of surrounding areas.
Once a TIF, or incremented tax, is established for a designated area, the county can then borrow against the projected revenues the increased tax will generate. The most common use of TIF revenue is directed to the district's infrastructure; to repair roads, sewers and curbs that have also fallen below the grade of the surrounding areas. The success of a TIF depends primarily on the growth of private development; returning jobs and residents to the area. If that expected development does not materialize, the county will have to recoup losses from its General Fund.
Commissioners DiSabatino and Gallen expressed further concerns. "I know the squeaking wheel gets the grease," said DiSabatino. Both she and Gallen fear that once the unspent CRA funds -- being held in the general fund -- are spent, both districts will fall far from the TIF priority list; stifling further economic success in those districts.
Historically, many of the CRAs and TIFs that fail to meet their mark, often because of premature withdrawal of funds needed to complete the program. Gallen and DiSabatino were emphatic about preventing that from happening if the Southwest TIF is established.
Another concern is the county administrator's request for the county to approve what is known as a Home Rule TIF (HRT). An HRT is not limited to redevelopment, and can be used for any county purpose. Included in the proposed TIF zone, is the large, undeveloped area of Sarasota Bay, including the controversial Longbar Pointe Property. Opponents of TIF's argue that when county's approve big, new developments that will add to the county's infrastructure costs, they often do so by promising economic impact on the back end. However, if the increased revenues do follow, only to be put into a big pot that the board can use for a wide variety of pet projects, then other taxpayers ultimately end up subsidizing, rather than benefiting from, such developments.
Staff's request was for the board to move forward with preparing the necessary documents to implement the proposed recommendations. Commissioners voted 6 to 1 to approved the action (DiSabatino dissenting). Commissioner DiSabatino said, "I'm going to need more than just promises."
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