Council works to revise TIF policy

Written by Muleskinner Staff

By MICHAEL FREEMAN (WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) – The City Council on Monday reviewed a variety of financial incentive programs offered by other communities that help attract new business to town.
The purpose of the council’s study session was to discuss potential financial incentive programs, including tax increment financing, as the council works to update its 1998 TIF ordinance.
The council decided to move forward on revising its TIF policy by first meeting with other local taxing jurisdictions.
“I think there are some obvious things we can correct first to clean up the document and make it congruent with state law,” said Councilman Baird Brock.
Tax increment financing allows a portion of property and sales taxes to be used for new development. The schedule of funding is decided upon before the project begins, said Doug Harris, city attorney. All projects must be completed within 23 years, according to state statutes.
Barbara Carroll, director of community development, and City Manager Paula Hertwig Hopkins presented the council multiple sample financial incentive programs. Carroll and Hopkins surveyed cities such as Skokie, Ill., Blue Springs, Mo., and Schaumburg, Ill., to learn each city’s marketing strategy, technical policy, and application process for a financial incentive program.
Hopkins suggested council members consider a marketing scheme similar to the financial incentive package posted on the city of Skokie’s webpage.
“Why do we like Skokie?” she said. “It is high-end, glossy, eye-catching and vibrant.”
Council members agreed that the marketing materials for a financial incentive program in Warrensburg should be business-friendly, enthusiastic and well organized.
Carroll and Hopkins also offered up the technical policy of Manhattan, Kan., as a model. The requirements and incentive details in Manhattan’s TIF program are easy to read, which Carroll said is key to attracting new businesses.
However, drafting a concise policy may not be as simple for Warrensburg, with the state of Missouri offering 40 tax incentive tools compared to four in Kansas.
Chairman Pro-Tem Charlie Rutt emphasized the importance of not overwhelming potential applicants with policy details that may not be relevant.
“If you give too much information, it may get misinterpreted,” he said.
Rutt also suggested that marketing for the program should focus on the unique tax incentives of Warrensburg rather than what the state provides.
“Developers know what incentives the state offers,” Rutt said. “What they don’t know is what the community offers.”