News Column

St. John revamps TIF districts to boost growth

June 15, 2014

By Phil Wieland, The Times, Munster, Ind.



June 15--ST. JOHN -- In efforts to improve the town's chances of attracting new businesses, the Redevelopment Commission has approved revamping tax increment financing districts.

The commission replaced the two existing small TIF districts on U.S. 41 with one district that now goes the entire length of U.S. 41 along the east side of the road and includes portions of the west side from 109th Avenue to about 101st Place and from 93rd Avenue north to include commercial property north of Hack Street.

A second district was created on 109th Avenue from Parrish Avenue to the town's east border. The district only affects nonresidential property.

Both changes were approved 4-0, with Councilman Larry Bustamante absent.

Town Manager Steve Kil said the TIF will enable the town to offer incentives to prospective new businesses as was done to accommodate the Strack & Van Til/Target development.

That property had a county drainage ditch running through it. The town borrowed money to relocate the ditch and paid off the loan with the increased property taxes the development generated.

Kil said the town was able to pay off the debt seven years early. He said the town would not be using the TIF to offer tax abatements as incentives because that would mean it couldn't pay any debt incurred to put in needed infrastructure.

The town has no TIF debt now, but resident Joe Hero spoke against both districts saying the only ones who would benefit would be the developers.

Hero said residents would end up paying higher property taxes and existing businesses would suffer when competing businesses received the advantage of the government assistance.

"What I see happening is smoke and mirrors," Hero said. "No other city I know of has so much area in a TIF. This will have a severe impact on taxes. You're giving special interests a special deal, and you've made a big mistake."

Kil said the TIFs will help attract the higher-end stores and restaurants residents have been asking for. Increased development would increase revenue and lower people's taxes, he said.

"Businesses are not knocking down our door to locate here," said Mark Barenie, St. John Town Council and commission president. "We have to really hustle and compete to get them."

The districts now have to be registered with the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance and the Lake County auditor to be in effect.

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(c)2014 The Times (Munster, Ind.)

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Source: Times (Munster, IN)