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Reader opposes merger of Speedway, Prairie Fire TIF districts

Published: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 11:27 a.m. CDT

To the editor:

Super-TIF District? Here is a quote from the Newton Daily News Friday May 17.

“Currently, the Prairie Fire district has more than $200,000 each year in excess tax revenue that could be applied to the Speedway district’s indebtedness if the two were merged. Such a merger into a “Super-TIF District” is allowed by statelaw. The speedway would only need to have an attendance of 100,000 across all of its events in 2014 in order to cover the remaining $400,000.”

Just think, this is the way our city officials think: the Prairie Fire TIF has extra funds, so we have to find an “allowed by state law” way to spend them. Is the Speedway TIF going to be short of revenue to make their bond payments? We were told that would never happen.

We were told when the bonds were approved for the speedway, they would be paid for from revenues generated from that TIF District and no other property tax funds would be used.

TIF revenues must be used within the TIF District. The projected fund balance for the Prairie Fire TIF as of June 30, 2013, is $529,663 with indebtedness of $599,705, plus interest. The Speedway TIF has a projected negative balance of $163,212, with an indebtedness of $13,400,000, plus interest, according to the 2013-14 budget.

As per the statement from our city officials, more than $200,000 each year excess from the Prairie Fire TIF could be applied to the Speedway district’s indebtedness. This $200,000 could also be returned to the taxing bodies (city, school district and county).

If this money were returned to the taxing bodies, it would lower the tax levy for all property owners. It would be about 1 percent on city taxes, or about $0.15 per $1,000 taxable valuation, which just happens to be how much they raised the rates for next year.

I would say to merge the two TIF districts, instead of returning the money to the taxing bodies, and using it for the Speedway TIF indebtedness — or anything else within the Speedway TIF — is just a way of hiding the fact that our property taxes have gone up because of the speedway.

We, as property owners and taxpayers, can do nothing to stop the merger of these two TIF districts. I feel the City Council members and city officials look at this as free money and no one will know any difference.

I don’t care how they try to spin it. If they take money that could be used for property tax relief, it is a tax increase and we as property taxpayers were misled at the time the speedway bonds were approved.

The school board and the county supervisors can and should reject this merger as it causes them to have a higher levy than needed, but maybe they don’t think they need this money.

There is no reason for them to give up these revenues. If they are good stewards of the taxpayers’ money, they will vote to reject this merger.

Dennis Messick

Newton

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