Earlier this week, the Missourian ran a special investigative piece about transportation development districts.
Through a 0.5 percent sales tax added to consumers' receipts, Columbia shoppers have paid $8.4 million for the past three years to fund projects in 13 different districts.
Yet, even when the sales tax is collected, it's not always used for expanding roads or finding solutions for congested traffic.
For example, the Columbia Mall TDD has yet to begin any transportation projects despite collecting $1.1 million in sales tax from its shoppers. Two Columbia TDDs have collected sales tax for years, but have only paid lawyers and accountants with it, instead of improving roads.
According to the investigative report, city and state officials aren't happy about the lack of oversight of TDDs. They say it gives too much power to a few powerful businesspeople.
But TDD board members, and the attorneys who represent them, say the money has financed public street projects that might never have gotten off the ground otherwise.
Columbia attorney Craig Van Matre's firm represents seven of Columbia’s 13 TDDs.
“We have done what I think the law requires all TDDs to do,” Van Matre said. “We have collected the money, spent it on what it is supposed to be spent on, accounted for it, documented it, played the game by the rules.”
Are TDDs good ways for developers to fund roads, or should there be more oversight so the program is not abused?