The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

May 5, 2013

Spend tax dollars in wise ways


Commercial-News

DANVILLE — Tax Increment Financing districts — TIFs, for short — allow local government to collect and set aside a portion of property tax revenue to spend on infrastructure and other projects designed to attract development or serve the public.

In many cases, the amount of TIF funds doesn’t add up to much during the short term, so decisions on how and where to spend the money must be made carefully.

In many cases, the decisions don’t take a lot of thought. New streets, water lines or sewers to a site where a company wants to construct a factory makes sense for all involved.

Not every case, however, is so clearly defined. And just because a proposed project falls within a TIF district’s spending guidelines doesn’t always make it a good choice for taxpayers.

Local governments can run the risk of paying for projects that the public perceives as unnecessary and reducing the public’s support when a major project comes along in the future.

A “green” parking lot proposed for Danville High School stands as a recent example. But the $1 million-plus price tag caused more than a few eyebrows to lift.

No one doubts the parking lot will improve appearances on the school’s campus, and students will be able to use the lot of several purposes. But wouldn’t a regular parking lot serve just as well?

Cleaning storm runoff is a worthy goal — but won’t the water flow into storm sewers already filled with “dirty” runoff?

The project meets the guidelines of the TIF district, but is it the best use of those tax dollars — local and state?

As governments continue to deal with financial concerns, the public is looking much more critically at how their tax dollars are being spent. Those in favor of a TIF project should be able to show how their proposal serves the public in the best possible way.