THE BIG LIE THAT IS THE “BALLPARK TIF” PLAN
The Phony Claims of CTMountaineer at the City Data forums:
CTMountaineer claims: “Taxpayers are not ‘giving’ WVU a ballpark.” The claim is False. In fact, $16.2 million in local taxpayer TIF district funds will be used to build the ballpark. And the Monongalia County Commission has publicly indicated its willingness to sign away, prior to construction, all ballpark operation and management to WVU as well as eventual full ownership of the ballpark.
CTMountaineer claims: “The only funding involved with this project will be created right there on site from usage.” The claim is False. Local tax increases for up to the next three decades – including such predictable tax revenue increases from, for example, the existing Sheetz and McDonalds and Target and WalMart, etc, in the TIF district and from everywhere else in the TIF district – will be used to pay off the $16.2 million construction of the ballpark. For the next 30 years all the anticipated and predictable property and sales tax increases that would have gone to the county and state will instead go toward paying off the ballpark and paying for tens of million of dollars of infrastructure payments on roadways and other upgrades serving the ballpark and the privately owned businesses and commercial enterprises currently existing and anticipated.
CTMountaineer claims: “The county will receive the same amount of property tax on the adjacent land they have in the past. The only difference is the improvements (which are not now in place) won’t be subject to property tax until they are paid for.” The claim is False. Mon-View LLC developers expect the current development plans for the TIF district to be paid for within about 10 or 15 years, but all county property taxes and state sales taxes on such development will remain locked into the TIF district (and away from the rest of the country) for up to 30 years. Moreover, benchmarking property tax for all the properties in the TIF district at the current level for general county use means that in real dollar terms, due to inflation, the county loses money every year for the next thirty years, in addition to not being allowed to spend a dime of 3 decades worth of property and sales tax increases outside of this thriving largely commercial district, and apparently not being allowed to spend the money even inside the district on anything but infrastructure support for the private developments and business operations.
CTMountaineer claims: “It is only the improvements that are not taxed, and those improvements would not have been an issue in any event without the project.” The claims are False. New tax revenue is lost to general county use for up to 30 years not only on “improvements” but also on (expected non-TIF) increased sales and increases in property value due to inflation and due to local (expected non-TIF) development. New sales and “improvements” – that is, commercial projects and businesses and their activities have been starting up and increasing in this thriving commercial district on a regular and uninterrupted basis and would continue to do so with or without any TIF legislation. It’s a lie to pretend otherwise. In fact, the “ballpark TIF” plan legislation was rushed to passage this year not only because WVU wants a ballpark pronto, but also because if the TIF legislation had been delayed a year, then at least one major new “improvement” – “The Domain” housing complex, which has just been built but is not quite yet on the tax rolls, all of those tax dollars instead of going to the TIF district for the next 30 years would have gone toward general county spending for the next 30 years had the TIF plan legislation been delayed by a year. The TIF district gets the local taxes on the “improvement” that is “The Domain,” 3 decades worth of tax revenue, even though the TIF legislation had nothing to do with building “The Domain.” The same is true of many other planned and predictable future developments in this thriving and constantly developing commercial area now and for the next three decades. Those revenues could have gone toward replacing the crumbling Hartman Run Bridge that the County may instead need to close due to lack of funds to repair or replace it. Instead, thanks to the recklessness and the haste of the TIF plan legislation passage, all the tax revenue generated by the already built “improvement” that is “The Domain” and other impending and future “improvements” is now locked into the TIF district and locked out from use in any of the rest of the county, for the next 30 years. Many new businesses and commercial “improvements” would have been inevitably developed in this thriving commercial area over the next 30 years without any TIF district creation. (It’s important to note what everyone has been silent about: the County Commissioners can vote to cancel the TIF plan at any point after any bonds it has approved are paid off. (See the WV TIF Handbook.) The Commission does not have to allow the TIF plan to run for a full 30 years, however the Commission has expressed zero inclination of ending the plan prior to year 30 in 2043. The general county would lose out on any increase in revenue from the TIF district until then, year 2043, and instead would receive for general county use only year 2012 tax revenue, which it would have to make do with until year 2043, by which time that sum would look incredibly paltry.)
CTMountaineer claims: “The county is out nothing, and 30 years down the road they get the benefit of the improvements for tax purposes. In the meantime, the people of the county get all the considerable benefits of the improvements for nothing.” These something for “nothing” claims are False. For 30 years, the TIF district legislation locks in these massive local taxpayer funds to this thriving largely commercial and uninhabited TIF district area, and away from all the rest of the county – that’s what the “county is out” – including away from many populous and impoverished areas that are starved for badly needed public services and infrastructure. $16.2 million of these public funds will be used to build the baseball ballpark that County Commissioners indicate WVU will manage, operate, and then own for the taking. $16.2 million-plus is not “nothing” – very far from the county getting something for nothing. Rather, WVU is getting something for nothing, or virtually nothing – and so are the TIF district businesses, when one considers the $28 million TIF highway interstate interchange, to be built entirely with local taxpayer funds, which TIF district commerce will benefit by. $28 million is not nothing either, let alone the additional tens of millions of dollars that the TIF legislation locks into that commercial and uninhabited district. The general county loses 30 years worth of taxes on “improvements” (that is, property tax increases) much of which would occur without or without the TIF legislation.
CTMountaineer claims, and this is the basic, biggest lie: “Mon County, and the state for that matter, will see this entire project take place without having to part with any significant amount of money at all from their budgets.” The claim is false. This claim pretends that the future – somehow, magically – does not exist, that predictable revenue increases do not exist, that expected inflation and growth are figments of the imagination. Try this analogy: A husband returns home after work one day pulling a boat on a trailer worth tens of thousands of dollars. Meanwhile his car and house and land are falling apart and in disrepair.
His wife says, “What did you do?!”
And he says, and he’s not drunk out of his mind, “This cost us nothing! The bank lent us the money to buy this great boat in exchange for the next 30 years of salary increases we would have received due to inflation and to the ever increasing value of our labors. But we lose nothing from our budget today! Never mind what we would have gained tomorrow. And look!” the husband exalts, “not only can we have fun on the boat, we can use the trailer for hauling other stuff around! Plus…we are helping to employ people who build boats and who supply gas and boating gear!”
“You’re either crazy, drunk, a liar, or all three,” the wife says, as another shingle falls off the house roof, the bumper falls off the car, and part of the yard collapses into a ravine.
“But that’s not all,” the husband beams, “after 30 years instead of bothering to own this boat ourselves and then renting it out to pay for its upkeep, or to earn money, I’ve already signed over ownership of the boat to our rich neighbor who so loves boats and who may give us a ride on it every once in awhile. Isn’t it great? Aren’t I great? What a swell deal. It costs us nothing! Think of the benefits!”
At which point the wife strikes down the lunatic with a frying pan.
Or, in the case of the TIF, the boat boys pat one another on the back and say what a wonderful thing they are doing for the families of the area.
That’s the big lie. That’s the “ballpark TIF” plan.