By Debby Woodin
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Joplin residents reacted to a presentation on a tax increment financing proposal for redevelopment with questions and some general agreement.
Some residents wanted to learn more about many of the fine points of the $806 million in projects under consideration, as well as trying to understand how a tax increment financing district works.
David Wallace, chief executive officer of Wallace Bajjali Development Partners, which crafted the proposal, outlined the TIF plan for an audience of about 60 on Thursday at City Hall. The city had sent letters inviting 4,500 property owners within the proposed TIF district to the informational meeting, said Doug Doll, chairman of the city’s TIF Commission.
“What we’re going to talk about tonight is a funding mechanism,” said Wallace, whose firm is the master developer for Joplin’s tornado recovery. “It is not a new tax, even though it has tax in the name.”
The proposed TIF district takes in more than 3,100 acres around the tornado zone, Main Street and across downtown. Wallace said that as those districts develop and generate new or increased taxes above current rates, the city would receive the new portion to reinvest. He projects that the district would create $60 million over time that could be used for land purchases for the projects, for construction, and for the city to build or repair needed infrastructure, such as water and sewer lines, sidewalks and streets that the city cannot now afford.
TIF is a funding mechanism, not an additional tax on homeowners and businesses, Wallace said. Taxes derived from future increased assessments would be directed to the city’s redevelopment body, the Joplin Redevelopment Corp., for reinvestment in the plan.
That would freeze taxes for other entities, such as the school district and the county, at current rates, though new growth outside the TIF district would provide additional revenue to those entities, Wallace said. The TIF district can last up to 23 years under state law. He said that based on his past experience in other cities, he thinks the redevelopment could spur additional investments of up to $1.9 billion.
Use of the money generated in a TIF district is regulated by state law, Wallace said. “It is not a blank check. It has to be spent on very specific things,” he said. Those are things that will help make the city more livable and update what had been, in many cases, old neighborhoods, he said.
The projects offer something for all sectors of the community, such as low-income and affordable housing for those who lost housing in the tornado that they cannot afford to replace. The plan includes senior and assisted housing as well.
A medical-education complex downtown that is part of the proposal could infuse $50 million a year into the city’s economy, Wallace said.
An arts and museum complex, a consolidated government office building, a new library and a movie theater complex are all part of the proposal.
After the presentation, a number of residents spoke with members of the TIF Commission, city staff members and Wallace Bajjali representatives to ask questions.
John Atwood, a Duquesne resident who lives in the area affected by the tornado and whose wife owns a business in the Joplin zone, said of the plan: “I think it can be a good thing as long as funding is put to good use and not used just to build monuments.”
He said he believes public money is best used “if we have a plan to make these things self-sufficient. I think the cash flow from these projects is phenomenal for the economy.”
Mike Kennedy, a Joplin homebuilder, said he thinks the proposal shows promise “if they do what they say they are going to do” and use a variety of local builders. “Overall, I think it’s great. Where else are you going to get $800 million in projects?”
ANOTHER PUBLIC MEETING to explain the TIF proposal will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 26. A public hearing for comments on the plan will be held at 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 30, at City Hall.