Carte blanche TIF Amendments?Sweeping changes for Rockland Tax Increment Financing (TIF) zones.Public Hearing, Rockland City Hall, Sept. 23, 6:30 p.m.
On Monday night, Sept. 23, there will be a public hearing in Rockland on proposed amendments to TIF (Tax Increment Financing) zones that I think will have negative effects, whether it is through setting increased precedents for discouragement of small business, or through a significant shifting in the tax base that might seriously undermine the welfare of both start-up businesses and residents.
The plan supports the usual downtown facade, interior building changes, etc., and doesn't offer anything to the small business owner. How many small businesses have vanished from Rockland?
The plan is also to extend the TIF from 25 years to 30 years.
I've read a number of studies and opinions about the benefits and negatives of TIF's. At this point, they seem largely abused by localities that obtained them early on, serving only to further prohibit locally-conceived new businesses, land dislocate the economic "lessers," (and the proposed amendment claims no displacement whatsoever), and to funnel tremendous resources into a very small area, neglecting areas outside the district. If I understand this correctly, this isn't good.
One of the studies I read, (and I hope no one gets any 'ideas' from this example), is that of the large stores, who have managed to include museum features within the space, have them legally structured as condominiums within the stores, and owned by the local government, making it exempt from property taxes, which just goes to show what keen legal minds are at work here.
I have always thought the following: that if money was available to help rundown areas rise again, that's what money should be used for; that a main object was to encourage small business and business retention; and to attract new business, whether from tourism or otherwise.
I thought that if a potential business owner was given a break in rent costs, or even building purchase, that once the business was successful, it would then be in a position to spread the wealth, not that it would then be given more money to pay for exterior or interior improvements, interior walkways, etc. That a successful business would invest profit in hiring employees, unless none were wanted or needed, and reinvest profits in building maintenance. In other words, reach a point where it stood on its own two feet, yet have local governmental support at its back in case of need.
In any event, here are the proposed amendments should you wish to review them prior to the Public Hearing, (and vote, presumably). I cannot find the referenced map attachments, so don't know what area the 89.1 acre downtown TIF encompasses.
As to Fisher Plow getting extensions? Wonderful, but the infrastructure is nonexistent and roads leading to the Industrial Park are wretched, along which children and an astounding number of people walk - I dare say, far more than at the Harbor Park trail - but that's another issue.
There are also inclusions for "Administrative costs, including, but not limited to reasonable charges for the time spent by municipal employees in the implementation of the Development Program." An assurance of raises? It's not at all clear to me.
Contrary to TIF money being "free money," with no loss or burden to residents, infrastructure, etc., it's not that simple - there is never "free money."
Maggie Trout lives in Rockland.
Editor's note: This guest column was edited for style and libel.