from the Harford County Dagger
From Harford Campaign for Liberty:
Why should you care what a TIF is?
Tax Increment Financing is being used by Harford County government to give developers big loans backed by the taxpayers. The Harford County Government plans to borrow more than $20,000,000 to fund the projects of huge developers and you’re underwriting it. Then, over time, the property taxes from the now-improved property will go to pay back the loan first, rather than put the tax money into the general fund. A TIF is a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) between the County and the private developers.
James Run is located southwest of I-95 and Rte. 543. The 110 acre piece of land is slated for lodging, retail, and office uses. This is a high-density, mixed-use project. Harford Council members Boniface, Lisanti, Slutzky, and Guthrie, at the urging of County Executive David Craig, voted on November 20th 2012 to give the James Run developers: $23 million dollars in financing through unrated ‘municipal junk bonds’ at 9% interest.
Two years ago, Harford County’s first TIF was approved. In 2010, Beechtree Estates received a $14 million TIF from the County to build a new residential development. To date, this project has been a failure for sales of homes– but a huge success for the crony business contacts. In 2013 it is estimated that they will owe the county $1.1 million in tax revenue and will only pay $300,000. The developer’s company will get the bill for the difference of $779,000.
If they cannot or do not want to pay this amount, guess who is on the hook to pay back the bond? Your grandmother, my parents, and my family will be on the hook for it. The county will be be forced to make good on the loan. They’ll spend our hard-earned money on maintaining, advertising, and selling the property at a foreclosure auction just to break even. No wonder why these TIF junk bonds have such a high rate, up to 9% interest. Investors consider ‘mixed-use’ developments a high risk.
The County has set a precedent by underwriting James Run and Beechtree. Every developer will want preferential treatment like this from now on. Those who don’t get help building will view it as unfair.
But wait, there’s more to this story.
The companies and developers who have been planning the James Run project for the last five years have been quietly making campaign contributions. Where did these contributions go? To the same people who would be deciding if they received help from the county.
Am I saying that this is collusion between parties involved and our elected officials? Maybe so, maybe not – but at best, sends the wrong message. It creates an environment in which other developers will say, “this is how you have to operate in Harford County.”
The contributions were from:
* the owners of the land
* the builders, JR Lodging and James Run Development Company
* the engineering company, Morris Ritchie Associates
* the lawyers representing the interested parties, Gessner, Snee, Mahoney and Lutche
* and the construction company who would benefit from site jobs, Dixie Construction.
The elected officials who backed the junk bonds:
* Dion Guthrie – received $321 (Mr. Guthrie has dissolved his campaign fund.)
* Richard Slutzky – received $1100 in campaign funds
* Mary Ann Lisanti – received $5435 in funds(she’s co-author of the bill)
* Billy Boniface – Over $10,000 toward his campaign fund(he’s co-author and Council President)
* David Craig – has received a whopping $23,790 in contributions to his campaign, all from the parties who will benefit from the James Run TIF.
TIFs should not be used in development projects in this county. Just like the giveaway grants and forgivable loans this county uses, TIFs are another private-public partnership gone awry.
Too much room is given for corruption and preferential treatment. If you’re tired of seeing your local government give taxpayer money to companies and developers, we need your help in sending a message. Call and email the County Executive and Council members who supported this Crony TIF funding, and tell them NO MORE. NO MORE ‘opportunity loans’, NO MORE ‘training grants’, and NO MORE millions of dollars spent in ‘tax increment financing’. Tell these TIF Supporters to Stop Voting for Crony Capitalism:
David Craig: firstname.lastname@example.org (410)638-3350
Billy Boniface: email@example.com (410) 734-6906
Mary Ann Lisanti: firstname.lastname@example.org (410)638-3526
Richard Slutzky: email@example.com (410)272-6033
PLEASE GO TO WWW.HARFORDLIBERTY.ORG to sign the petition against Bill 12-35. Together, we can turn this county toward fiscal responsibility.
Steering Committee Member
Harford County Campaign for Liberty
P.S. Remember, the only way to stop bad government is to actually stop bad government.
The Harford County Campaign for Liberty needs your help to stop TIF and many other loony policies being enacted by Harford County government. Please sign our petition today to get involved with Harford C4L and make Harford government work for us!
For more information visit: HarfordLiberty.org