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County officials get TIF talk

December 6, 2011

City Attorney Tim Baker

    Decatur officials are seeking to create a tax increment financing (TIF) district within the city limits to receive tax proceeds from future increases in assessed property valuation of businesses and industries in the city, but not from any single-family residences in town.
    Such tax proceeds would go to the Decatur Redevelopment Commission (DRC) for use in economic development projects within the city limits as a way of gaining jobs, raising payroll and local revenue, and even selling homes to new working families.
    A Decatur TIF would not involve any businesses or industries outside of the city limits and any move to enlarge the Decatur TIF would require the same lengthy and detailed process that has been used to get the idea for a city TIF this far.
    A presentation about the TIF process, which has been in use in numerous states for many years and already exists in Berne, was given at Monday's meeting of the Adams County commissioners by Decatur Mayor John Schultz and City Attorney Tim Baker.
    Baker commented that having a TIF district will be a big step up for Decatur to show further preparedness for businesses and industries that may wish to locate or expand here.
    Baker, who said a TIF can only exist for 25 years, noted that if a TIF is set up, the assessed values of every property become a "base amount" and, for businesses and industries, whatever rises in assessed value occur will produce taxes that would go to the DRC for use on behalf of the community in economic development.
    The DRC has five voting members: president Ron Storey, vice-president Rex Hinsky, secretary Larry Isch, and members Brent Arnold and Max Miller, plus non-voting member Ben Faurote, who represents North Adams Schools. Two others also participate in the meetings: Phyllis Whitright, Decatur's clerk-treasurer, and Baker, the DRC's legal counsel.
    At Monday's meeting, Baker said the DRC will work within the city's comprehensive plan, which was redone in 2010, and said there may come a time for the city plan commission to discuss economic development matters with the county plan commission.
    Baker pointed out that the DRC has designated four zones of interest in the city for further economic development:
    • Downtown.
    • The St. Marys river bank just east of downtown, running south from Monroe St. to the east-west alley between Jefferson and Adams Sts.
    • The railroad corridor between Meibers St. and Adams St.
    • The full length of very busy 13th St.
    The attorney also emphasized that there is no connection between a TIF district, which exists within a city's or town's limits, and an urban services area, which exists immediately outside Decatur's city limits.
    Baker remarked that Berne created a TIF district to get an automotive parts plant to locate there (FCC Adams) and that TIFs have worked well in such places as Columbia City and Gas City.
    However, the attorney stated, there will be redevelopment concepts debated and likely voted on at the 2012 session of the state legislature, which starts in January, and that could change some things in regard to TIF districts.
    After the commissioners' meeting, Baker said use of revenues received by a TIF district could be a better incentive to economic development than tax abatements.

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