Public hearing set on urban renewal plan needed for TIF

The Greene County board of supervisors set Monday, Oct. 29, as the date of a public hearing required to establish tax increment financing (TIF) against the 41 wind turbines erected in eastern Greene County a year ago.

The public hearing will be on a proposed urban renewal district that includes the wind turbines, the gravel and paved roads that connect them to the career academy slated for construction on Highway 30 west of American Athletic Inc, and county roads in northeast Greene County. Click here to see the proposed district.

The urban renewal district does not include any farm ground.

Using TIF, the increased property tax paid on property in the urban renewal district is used for a specific purpose – in this case, construction of the career academy. Per the Code of Iowa, TIF can be used only for economic development projects. Because the career academy will provide job training, it qualifies as an economic development project.

The county will borrow up to $5 million for construction, with payment of the debt coming from TIF revenue. Jeff Heil of Northland Securities, the firm hired as underwriter/finance advisor, has estimated the 41 wind turbines will create as much as $11.8 million in TIF revenue.

The urban renewal plan includes secondary roads projects: pavement overlay and widening of 19 miles of county roadway including E-26 from P-33 east to the Greene/Boone county line, P-46 from Highway 30 north to E-18, and E-18 from Highway 144 east to the Greene/Boone county line. Cost of those projects coming from TIF revenue is $8.55 million to $11.4 million.

Also listed in the urban renewal plan is doing pavement overlay and widening of 19 miles including County Road P-33 from Highway 30 north to E-18, E-26 from Highway 4 east to P-33, and E-18 from approximately two miles east of P-29 to Highway 144. Cost of those projects is estimated at $9.5 million to $13.35 million.

If all the roads projects are to be completed, it will require an amendment to the urban renewal plan including some or all of the additional 81 wind turbines built this summer.

Three Jefferson residents questioned the supervisors during the meeting about using TIF revenues. Jon Tiffany called using TIF “robbing Peter to pay Paul,” noting that without TIF in place, the added revenue from the wind turbines would go into the county’s general fund and be available for other purposes, including tax relief. He said he’d rather not see the money designated for specific projects.

Jayne Tiffany said she’d like to see funds used for a new jail and to support emergency medical services.

Board chair John Muir assured Tiffany there will be ambulance service in the county, and noted TIF funds can not be used for jail. Auditor Jane Heun said funds for a jail would require a bond referendum.

Mary Figenshaw also lobbied for county support for the ambulance service, and asked if money now used for secondary roads could be used for other things if roads receives TIF revenue. County engineer Wade Weiss as on hand to explain that less than 15 percent of the secondary roads’ budget comes from county funds, and that amount primarily covers wages, benefits and insurance. He said construction funds come from state farm-to-market money.

The proposed urban renewal plan was compiled by county staff Pam Olerich, Michelle Fields, Chuck Wenthold and Weiss using a template provided by Ahlers & Cooney, the law firm hired by the county to assist with establishing TIF. Assistant county attorney Thomas Laehn also worked on the plan.

Some of the information from the plan is included in the meeting minutes (under the Calendar/Agenda tab on GCNO). The complete plan is available for review at the county auditor’s office.

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