The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

December 13, 2012

Taxing entities focusing on long-term potential for growth via TIF plan

By Debby Woodin
news@joplinglobe.com

JOPLIN, Mo. — Jasper County officials expect to incur some loss in revenue if Joplin’s proposed tax increment financing district is established, but they believe there is potential to make up for it as projects tied to the plan develop.

The city’s TIF Commission is expected to take a vote at a meeting today after hearing any final testimony that may be offered at a 5:30 p.m. public hearing. The commission, an advisory panel, would send its recommendation to the City Council.

The TIF proposal would encompass a large section of central Joplin, including most of the tornado damage zone and downtown. It would freeze tax revenues for other taxing entities such as the Joplin School District, Jasper County and the Joplin Special Road District at post-tornado levels. They are all represented on the TIF Commission.

Increases that come from property taxes and half of any increase seen in sales tax revenue in the TIF district would be designated for a special fund that would be used to issue bonds toward about $800 million in proposed tornado redevelopment projects. The TIF plan would be in place for 23 years.

The county collects a three-eighths-cent sales tax for general revenue, a quarter-cent sales tax for law enforcement, and a quarter-cent sales tax for road and bridge work. The county 911 Board receives funding from a one-tenth-cent countywide sales tax.

Darieus Adams, the Western District Jasper County commissioner and a member of the TIF Commission, said the TIF proposal would cost the county about $84,000 in revenue initially, but that there is agreement that the county will be paid an administrative fee for any hard costs incurred in monitoring the TIF revenue, such as employee time or software.

He described the agreement on the costs as fair. “I think it will capture any expenses we have,” he said. “We certainly hope there will be an increase in sales tax, which will offset any real estate tax losses.”

The county also has a property levy of 8.23 cents per $100 assessed valuation for mental health services and another at the same rate for assistance to the developmentally disabled through the Jasper County Sheltered Facilities Board.

Sarah Duffy McConnell, chairwoman of the Jasper County Mental Health Tax Board, said the board expects to see some impact, but not anything significant. “I’m sure it will be workable for all of us,” she said. The board does not know exactly how much the TIF district would curb proceeds, but it says that after the May 22, 2011, tornado, revenue from the mental health property tax went down about $17,000 because of the loss of valuation. She said she would expect that reduction to continue since the TIF plan would freeze tax revenues at that level.

Services have not suffered, though, McConnell said. She said that Ozark Center and Lafayette House, two chief providers of mental health services, have been able to obtain several grants that would not have been available had it not been for the tornado and those in need of help as a result.

She said she favors the TIF proposal even though it may affect tax proceeds. “Anything that helps the city grow will help us grow,” she said.

Alecia Archer, executive director of the Jasper County Sheltered Facilities Board, said the TIF district would affect revenue, “but we are not sure what that effect will be. In the long run, we would support it because it would generate more revenue over time. We’re just looking out for the long term.”

County Auditor Richard Webster said it is difficult to foresee how county sales tax collections would be affected, including the three-eighths-cent general tax. “We’re hoping it will remain the same as it as now, which is $6 million a year for the county,” he said. “But until there is significant commercial development in the TIF district, it’s hard to say.”

The Joplin Special Road District also receives tax revenue. A spokesman for the district could not be reached for comment.



Today’s meetings

THE TIF COMMISSION will hold a study session at 3 p.m. today to wrap up discussions on the proposal before a public hearing at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall, 602 S. Main St.