Regarding Mr. Robert Chartier’s Oct. 28 letter to the editor titled “Mixed facts on TIF,” I agree. His letter contained incorrect information. I’m writing to set the record straight.
He starts by stating that some specific language was deleted from the ballot. That it is completely incorrect. First, there was no proposal to remove any ballot language, and further, the City Council did not delete any language from the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) ballot item. In fact, the ballot item contains the very language he claims was deleted. This language is very transparent and more explicit than is required by the Vermont Economic Progress Council (VEPC), which is the state entity which critically reviewed and approved the city’s application for forming a TIF district. VEPC closely monitors TIF districts, and also specifically reviewed and approved the city’s ballot language.
He is correct when he states “…this (language) reads that the property taxpayers of Barre City are ultimately liable for the $2.2 million.” This is a technical fact of any general obligation bond issued by any municipality. The inference created by Mr. Chartier is that somehow approving this bond will increase your property taxes. But the facts, and the detailed financial information supporting the TIF Application and this bond issue, comfortably prove otherwise. Only the incremental taxes generated by new, private sector development will pay for the TIF bond. It is critically important that the voters understand that, contrary to Mr. Chartier’s inferences, approving the TIF bond will not increase the property taxes of existing (or future) city taxpayers.
He continues by asking why hasn’t the council discussed “what if TIF does fail?” The answer is simple. The TIF district won’t fail, and we have the documentation and financial data to prove it. The city administration and council will not ask the voters to approve any TIF bond for which we can’t clearly document the incremental (developer) revenue stream to pay for it. We have that information available now for Mr. Chartier or any other member of the public to review for this $2.2 million bond request. Call or come in to City Hall and the city treasurer, planning director or I will gladly review it with you. To the best of my knowledge, Mr. Chartier has not done that.
Mr. Chartier continues by criticizing the City Place project, and more specifically, the cost of the replacement of the city-owned drainage culvert adjacent to City Place. First, the culvert is not part of the City Place development. It is, and always has been, a city-owned culvert. The time to replace this problematic and functionally deficient culvert was when the site work was being done for City Place. Second, the cost to the city of replacing this culvert was $125,000 — not $200,000. The City Place developer actually subsidized the replacement cost by $100,000. By choosing to replace the culvert in the manner and at the time it did, the City Council actually saved taxpayers $100,000.
Last, Mr. Chartier asks, “How many more years is Barre going to be Vermont’s leading No. 1 city with the highest property taxes”? The answer to his question is that Barre’s high tax rate will continue indefinitely if we do not take advantage of sound, creative, and state approved municipal infrastructure financing tools such as TIF. TIF promotes development, will continue the revitalization of the community, and grow the Grand List in order to responsibly stem the growth of local municipal taxes.
In my judgment, Mr. Chartier’s letter did not contain any relevant information that objectively or rationally argues against the merits of TIF financing. In closing, all the City Council and administration ask is that each voter reviews the factual information which is publicly available on the city website regarding TIF, Then decide for yourself as to the merits and benefits TIF will bring to the future of Barre City. We believe we now have a demonstrated track record of revitalization over the past three years that deserves your trust and support on this important issue. Please don’t forget to vote on this proposal (next Tuesday, Nov. 5) which is vital to the continued revitalization of our city.
Steven E. Mackenzie is the Barre City Manager.
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