City planners seek feedback on adding more Tax Increment Financing districts

Jun 28, 2012

Columbia officials are seeking feedback from the public on TIFs – or Tax Increment Financing, and its impact on the city. 

A panel of city planners Tuesday night gathered at the city’s administration building to seek feedback from Columbia citizens about the idea of enacting more TIF districts in the city to help fund public infrastructure and encourage infill development. 

The four-person panel shared stories of successful TIF districts in other cities such as Kansas City and St. Louis. 

Some Columbia residents like north central resident Pat Fowler say there are better ways to go about funding infrastructure improvements. 

“Why don’t we just try for a change to ask the citizens of our community to pay an increased cost for the services that we know are needing our attention?" says Fowler.  "I pay 65 cents a month on my utility bill and I believe the largest house in Columbia pays a dollar $35 a month on their utility bill and we’ve known for 31 years that we have a storm water system in need of assistance and that need keeps growing”

Residents also voiced concerns about failed TIF programs in other cities that left communities in debt on proposed TIF projects. 

City Manager Mike Matthes says those concerns are valid.  “I think that’s largely due to those communities,' says Matthes, "that have taken out quite a bit of debt based on the future income of TIF and where they’ve bet wrong and that is one of the things that you can really go overboard with, with TIFs. In fact most of the examples I can think of where TIF has not worked out were based on borrowing money that didn’t happen.” Matthes also says the best way forward would be to sample with small projects before moving into larger, more costly, endeavors.