The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

November 19, 2012

Our View: Stepping back

The Joplin Globe

JOPLIN, Mo. — Sometimes you have to step back before you can move forward. That may be the right approach for members of Joplin’s Tax Increment Financing commission as it studies the pros and cons of a TIF district that would encompass the hardest hit section of the tornado zone, extend north on Main Street and take in downtown.

The proposal is one being made by the city and the city’s master development firm, Wallace Bajjali Development Partners, as a way to help finance $806 million in redevelopment projects. Those projects are the mainframe for Joplin’s recovery after the 2011 tornado that wiped out about a third of the city.

The TIF district would freeze tax revenues at existing levels for all those who receive the revenue except the city. Any new taxes realized from increased assessments as the TIF district grows in value would go to a city TIF fund to pay off bonds the city would obtain to help finance projects.

Doug Doll, TIF Commission chairman, this past week said the commission does not intend to short any other taxing entities, such as the school district, on revenue.

“I think we all agree this needs to meet all of the needs of all of the taxing districts,” he said. “It’s either a win for everybody or a win for no one.”

We wholeheartedly agree with Doll.

It’s a complex issue, with plenty of questions to be answered. The Joplin School District, the largest taxing entity within the TIF area, is challenging the use of the TIF. The district says it doesn’t want to be seen as a naysayer, but it would be neglecting its role in the community if it gave the proposal a rubber stamp.

Joplin’s assessed valuation is about $34 million less than it was before the losses caused by the 2011 tornado, which translates in a loss of revenue to the school district of about $1.2 million, school officials have said.

The school district is offering up its own solutions and compromises. It has also presented a list of questions that district officials say need to be answered. The district is also asking for the timetable to be extended in order that a fuller review and evaluation be made.

Stepping back doesn’t seem to be a bad idea at this juncture. Clearly there are stakeholders who don’t see the current proposal as a “win” for everyone.

We would encourage the public to attend an informational meeting to be held at 6 p.m. on Nov. 26 at City Hall. A public hearing for comments will be at 6 p.m. on Nov. 30.

The decisions being made concern the use of your hard-earned money.