I’ve posted on the TIF many times. I’ve written LTTE about the TIF many times.
Fast forward all these years and now we have a City Manager who is not afraid to tell the cold, hard truth. As I stated in a comment on a previous post, Mr. O’Leary does have some cover on this issue, because he didn’t create it. He wasn’t around for the beginning of this fiasco; he has to clean it up.
From the Ft. Worth Star Telegram today:
The city’s special tax increment financing district, which includes Town Hall, apartments and shopping centers, is facing a deficit of more than $500,000 next fiscal year to cover the interest payment for bonds used to create Town Center, City Manager Dan O’Leary said.
“The TIF has never paid its own way,” O’Leary said. “Since the beginning, the TIF had a shortfall that was made up by using funds borrowed.”
See, it’s right there in black and white….the TIF has NEVER paid its own way. Just what I’ve been saying for nearly a decade. In 2005, the City Council passed a huge incentive package, giving away building permits and rebating sales tax back to tenants, it failed. Sure, Arthouse was built and they got free building permits, but it didn’t save Town Center. In 2006 right before the Library vote, the Citizen did a front page story about how great the TIF was doing, happy times were here and this chicken little character in town saying all is not well is just not telling the truth…mmmmmmm, wonder who was correct and who was wrong?
More from the ST:
Although Town Center’s residences and businesses are expected to raise $3.1 million in property taxes next fiscal year, it’s not enough to cover the next $3.6 million interest payment on bonds issued for Town Center, O’Leary said.
To make up for the shortfall, the City Council has approved by borrowing the difference of $513,291 from the city’s general fund, tax revenue normally set aside for streets and public safety.
“These are real uncertain economic times; that’s why we’re in the situation we’re in,” Mayor Pat McGrail said. “Yes, we have fallen behind on revenue for Town Center but I feel optimistic development will come.”
I’ve said this day would come and I’m glad the new City Manager just gets right to the heart of the matter. What we need is the truth.
But even as Arthouse moves forward, residents have begun to object to more Town Center projects that include apartments. In November, Greenway Investment of Dallas had to pull its project from City Council consideration after residents opposed its plans to build 324 apartments at Keller Smithfield Road and Keller Parkway along with shops, offices and restaurants.
“If that project had moved forward, we probably wouldn’t be talking about the TIF today, but sadly it included apartments,” McGrail said.
The city has hired a consultant to look at the uses allowed under Town Center’s zoning, McGrail said.
“We have to be careful that we bring in Town Center projects that are acceptable to the citizens and that support the TIF,” he said.
Don’t forget it either. We should not lower our standards because the previous city manager, mayors and councils screwed up. Rather than living with apartments for the next 50 years, it might be time to cut the budget for the next few years until somebody decides to build something other than multifamily in the district.
Former Councilman Jim Carson, who has been vocal against bringing more apartments to Town Center, said taxpayers may no longer be able to be selective because of the TIF. He believes that former city leaders overbuilt and overspent on Town Hall, he said.
“Residents are going to have to decide if they want to continue to limit development with apartments in Town Center or relax their standards to save money in their pocketbooks,” he said. “I think we made a mistake 10 years ago and now we’re paying for it.”
I was expecting a little bit more forceful statement from Jim, but I guess he’s mellowed in these past few months.
I think this is only the beginning of Mr. O’Leary dropping bombshells about future budgets. If you read his comments within this year’s budget document, it is not full of happy and joy about future budgets, but rather doom and gloom. Previous administrations have put this City in a bad situation, and now it’s time to pay the piper.