The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

December 3, 2012

Our View: Walking away not an option

JOPLIN, Mo. — Discussions surrounding the proposed tax increment financing district have been on the table for weeks. And that’s where they need to stay until there is agreement — or at least compromise — on the best plan for the redevelopment of Joplin.

The questions and concerns raised in public meetings about how the TIF district will affect Joplin’s taxing entities have been valid. We have been impressed with the way all those concerned have conducted themselves. But we would expect no less in a situation so important.

The community has come together since the May 22, 2011, tornado in extraordinary ways, helping each other through terrible trauma. Almost a year later, voters approved a $62 million school bond issue that will rebuild schools destroyed in the tornado. Voters, with their majority of “yes” votes, said they wanted their tax dollars to be used to rebuild schools. Joplin school officials have acted correctly in asking the TIF Commission to put on the brakes. They are rightly worried about the loss of future tax revenue over such a large area and for such a long time.

School officials have been in meetings with Wallace Bajjali Development Partners, the master developer hired by the city. Changes are being suggested to the initial TIF proposal so dollars approved for the school district aren’t erased by a TIF. Some solutions have been offered, and we expect more will come.

There is, in our view, every reason to use a TIF as a funding mechanism for redevelopment. Wallace Bajjali has put 18 projects — including a $12 million payment to the Joplin School District to compensate it for lost revenue — on the table. Through the TIF, about $60 million of that $806 million would come from future tax growth that would otherwise go to the school and the county.

The TIF is merely a development tool. It’s a good one that can be used under local control. It has been effective throughout the state. All eyes are on Joplin as we attempt to corral the largest TIF district in the state. But remember, the tornado experienced here was one of the most deadly and destructive in history.

The real power to move forward lies with community leaders. That leadership is needed during the next few weeks so that a recommendation can be approved by the TIF Commission and then be voted on by the Joplin City Council.

Should we use a TIF? Absolutely.

Does it have to be the all and everything? No.

Compromises and changes are acceptable. Leaving unfinished business on the table isn’t.

We urge those involved to gut this out to the end. After all, Joplin is known nationwide as the town with guts.

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