Update: Various city leaders will be members of TIF commission

Wednesday, September 3, 2008 | 12:24 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Bankers, commercial development specialists and MU administrators will represent the city as members of a group that is tasked with exploring ways to revitalize downtown.

The six mayoral appointments to the city's first tax-increment financing — or TIF — commission received official confirmation in a city council meeting Tuesday night.

Tax-increment financing is a mechanism that anticipates how much additional property tax revenue a development would generate and captures that revenue to pay for infrastructure improvements such as streets, sidewalks and parking garages in a designated TIF district or for a specific project. Tax-increment financing is one of several economic incentives the commission could consider once established, Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine said Friday.

St. Romaine views tax-increment financing not as a tax abatement but as a way for development to help pay for itself. He noted that upgrades to sidewalks and "pretty fragile" water mains downtown, as well as renovations to Eighth Street are all projects that could be assisted by tax-increment financing money.

"We think this is a good opportunity for future developers to participate in that cost but also for current projects to help pay for some of the improvements," he said. "(And) obviously we want to create jobs that would raise the median wage for the city of Columbia and ... grow the tax base."

Tax-increment financing has become an increasingly popular development tool across Missouri and has been heavily used in bringing new businesses to St. Louis and to Kansas City's new Power and Light District, an area in downtown Kansas City that, until recently, lay economically dormant.

Tax-increment financing has never been used in Columbia. State statutes dictate it can be used only in a blighted area, defined generally as an area that "constitutes an economic or social liability or a menace to the public health, safety, morals or welfare."

In order to qualify for tax-increment financing, applicants also must show that their projects would not go forward without some sort of public assistance. St. Romaine acknowledged that a tax-increment financing commission would have to make sure incentives are afforded only to projects that otherwise would not happen.

"I think with any type of city financing, a city has to pick projects very carefully," he said. "We should only be picking improvement projects that add to our jobs base and our tax base."

Under Hindman's recommendations, city appointees to the 11-member TIF commission are Bruce Walker, dean of MU's College of Business; Steve Erdel, president of Boone County National Bank; Jay Burchfield, a commercial real estate developer and owner of Wilgate Development; Andrew Beverley, chairman and CEO of First National Bank and president of Centennial Investors; Nikki Krawitz, vice president for finance and administration at MU; and Teresa Maledy, president of Commerce Bank.

They will join two Boone County representatives — Ernie Wren III, a course review specialist at Columbia College who also served on a tax-incrementing financing commission in Ashland, and Boone County Assessor Tom Schauwecker — as well as two Columbia School District appointees and one person representing Columbia's Special Business District, the Columbia Public Library and Boone County Family Resources that have yet to be named.

Hindman acknowledged the TIF commission would be heavily laden with bankers and higher-education representatives. All but one of the city's appointees are bank executives or MU administrators.

"The bankers I picked are all committed to downtown Columbia," he said, adding that it is "very important that the university be heavily represented" because MU helped fund a study by Boston-based Sasaki Associates on the potential redevelopment of southern downtown and because MU owns property that would be located in a possible TIF district.

Hindman did not elaborate on what types of development he would like to see downtown, but he referenced an appeal by John Ott, Columbia Special Business District board member, to use public assistance to renovate the 80-year-old Tiger Hotel.

"We are anticipating that will be the first application (to the TIF commission)," Hindman said, "but we don't expect it to be the last by any means."


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