Civic beat: TIF recertification

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December 7, 2009 // UPDATED 10:19 am - December 7, 2009
By: Cristof Traudes
Cristof Traudes
TIF plan: Recertify 50 percent, not all

The City Council on Dec. 4 voted 9–4 to officially adopt a plan to put a projected $100 million over 10 years toward neighborhood revitalization and paying off Target Center debt.

The source of the money will be tax-increment financing (TIF) districts — but not as many as council members had discussed using a year ago. In 2008, they adopted a policy to recertify 100 percent of the recently decertified districts, which had funded the Neighborhood Revitalization Program for two decades.

Property owners within a TIF district pay their taxes directly toward a designated use — for example, neighborhood revitalization. While TIF provides a relatively stable funding source for that targeted use, it also takes a chunk of taxpayers out of the city’s tax base and in turn increases property tax pressures on everyone else. Projections this year showed that if the council were to recertify 100 percent of the TIF districts, property taxes could increase by 22.2 percent in 2011.

Instead, under the council’s adopted plan, the city will only recertify 50 percent of the districts, which projections said would pull in an average of about $10 million annually through 2019. (Actual TIF returns likely will be different; neighborhoods and the Target Center will get equal shares of whatever comes in.)

Council Member Paul Ostrow (1st Ward) made several appeals in the days leading up to the vote to scrap the TIF plan and switch to funding neighborhoods and Target Center debt relief through the general fund instead. He said the current economic climate calls for all city departments to compete from the same source of money.

Ostrow also proposed phasing in payments to neighborhoods and the Target Center — starting with less money up front, more later — so that tax impacts won’t be so harsh in immediate years. But city staff showed a phasing-in approach wouldn’t work, Council Member Elizabeth Glidden (8th Ward) said. While developing her own version of such a phasing-in plan, she learned that both neighborhoods and the Target Center really need more funding up front, not down the road.

“I really wanted the phased-in approach to work,” Glidden said, but it wouldn’t.

Ostrow rebutted that residents could be forced to move out of the city if a projected 15 percent property tax increase for 2011 holds true.

“I just think that’s disastrous for the city,” he said.

Four council members voted against the TIF plan: Ostrow, Cam Gordon (2nd Ward), Lisa Goodman (7th Ward) and Ralph Remington (10th Ward).


Survey: Support for hydropower at Falls hard to find

When the new Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is seated next month, one of the first tasks it will have is to decide whether to further research construction of a hydroelectric power plant at St. Anthony Falls — and whether it would be feasible as a publicly owned municipal utility.

Park Board commissioners share a consensus that a privately owned power plant at the falls — essentially, the long-stalled, controversial Crown Hydro project — simply wouldn’t work. But the board also has a sustainability goal to get the parks system “off the grid,” or make it entirely energy self-sufficient. Park Board research shows hydropower would be less expensive an alternative energy source than wind and solar.

In October, board staff performed a small online survey to test the waters on public ownership. The response: still not much support, Planning Director Judd Rietkerk said.

One of the key reasons people have opposed the Crown Hydro project is because they are worried it would cause St. Anthony Falls to run dry. Under public ownership, the Park Board would be responsible for tracking and controlling the falls’ flow rate, but that didn’t change respondents’ approval levels.

Rietkerk said a hydro plant at St. Anthony Falls — in whatever form — is generally not supported.

Still, the board came close at its Dec. 2 regular meeting to voting on a resolution that would have had it declare support for “public ownership of a hydro facility in Mill Ruins Park” and encourage “the next board to acquire the rights of water use, and authorization and resources to complete construction.”

Commissioner Jon Olson, who will be a member of the next board and who introduced the resolution, said it wouldn’t have bound the board to constructing a hydropower facility. Rather, it would have allowed for further research to better gauge feasibility.

But the resolution’s late appearance — it wasn’t seen by most other commissioners until a half hour into the meeting — sunk it. A vote was postponed until January.


Election results made official

The City Council on Dec. 4 made official the results from the Nov. 3 municipal election. Below are Minneapolis’ newly elected officials, who will be seated in January. Newcomers are marked with asterisks.

Mayor: R.T. Rybak

City Council, Ward 1: Kevin Reich*

Ward 2: Cam Gordon

Ward 3: Diane Hofstede

Ward 4: Barb Johnson

Ward 5: Don Samuels

Ward 6: Robert Lilligren

Ward 7: Lisa Goodman

Ward 8: Elizabeth Glidden

Ward 9: Gary Schiff

Ward 10: Meg Tuthill*

Ward 11: John Quincy*

Ward 12: Sandy Colvin Roy

Ward 13: Betsy Hodges

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, at large: John Erwin*, Bob Fine, Annie Young

Park Board, District 1: Liz Wielinski*

District 2: Jon Olson

District 3: Scott Vreeland

District 4: Anita Tabb*

District 5: Carol Kummer

District 6: Brad Bourn*

Board of Estimate and Taxation: Carol Becker, David Wheeler*

Reporter Kathryn Holahan contributed to this story.