TIF getting serious attention?

Saturday, May 31, 2003

By Tim Goodman

In your May 28 editorial regarding the current proposed tax-increment financing district in Cape Girardeau, the last sentence of the first paragraph says it all: "... basic infrastructure needs that Cape Girardeau can't afford."

City government can't afford the current costs of the project, and the Cape Girardeau School District can't afford to have its funds diverted to pay for the city's shortfall.

The proposal as now presented is a way to divert tax dollars from the school district to pay for improvements the city is obligated to make because of its approval of the annexation request of the Prestwick Group.

Your editorials continue to miss the point that the funds being requested in a completely residential TIF will come in large part from future school revenue. If the project is successful, there will be large numbers of new students to be educated, and the tax revenue to support these students will not be available to the school district.

Although Prestwick has decreased its request, it has also eliminated its financial guarantee to the city and school district.

As the TIF process has evolved, it has become apparent that, although the developer makes the TIF request, the city needs funding more than the developer. The proposal currently before the TIF commission consists entirely of infrastructure costs necessitated by the city's annexation of Prestwick in 2002. With TIF no certainty, what was the backup plan for providing these utilities? It appears the city had no other plan.

Of the current $9 million TIF request, $5 million is related to improvements on Bloomfield Road (the remaining $4 million to sewer, water, electric etc.). It is interesting to note that the original TIF proposal included $1.4 million for the Bloomfield Road improvements.

The project has morphed from an asphalt overlay with curbs to a 36-foot-wide concrete street with curb and gutter. No supporting documentation has been presented to justify the upgrade other than the emotion of possible fatalities from future traffic generated by yet-to-be-built homes. Someone should contact the Missouri Department of Transportation and determine the expected reduction of traffic count on Bloomfield Road from the extension of Route AB at Blomeyer to I-55 and the plan to make Highway 74 a four-lane divided highway from Dutchtown to I-55 (a consultant's study completed over two years ago). It would be logical to assume the traffic reduction would be significant.

If the city leaders feel the Prestwick development is essential for the growth of Cape Girardeau, they should make the appropriate case to the taxpayer's and get a vote of support just as the school district did with its construction bond issue. The Prestwick developers should withdraw their TIF request and secure private financing for their development as many local developers before them have done.

Hijacking school tax revenue is not the path to progress for Cape Girardeau.

Tim Goodman is the president of Benton Hill Investment Co.

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