Plenty of TIF News to Go Around

Plenty of TIF News to Go Around

Call it "the week that was" in news items related to projects on the drawing board, soon to get off of the ground, or those that failed to live up to promises. The common thread is that all of them somehow involve tax increment financing (TIF) as a funding tool. TIF allows development on a specified parcel (or parcels) of property to move forward by an authority issuing bonds for certain aspects of the project and then allowing, with the agreement of the taxing bodies where the development is located, that a good portion of anticipated taxes on the new more valuable development to be funneled to repaying the bonds instead of fully to the taxing bodies’ accounts.

We read of a failed development in North Versailles for townhomes and how the Mall at Robinson may not be throwing off enough money or produced enough corollary development (more retail?) to pay off debt; that the long-talked-about apartment village in Castle Shannon will go before Castle Shannon Borough and the Keystone Oaks School Board this month with one school official noting that the revenue split (75% for the bonds, 25% for the district) won’t bring a lot of dollars to the District, but they will get a lot of earned income tax dollars from people who will occupy the apartments (unless, of course, those prospective residents are already ling in the District and will simply move to the new location); the empty lot in uptown Mt. Lebanon, where the first swing and miss at development with a TIF came about a decade ago and is now in the hands of a second developer; a multi-use development in Sewickley; and, not to be left out, the Market Square development in Downtown Pittsburgh. We wrote an editorial in June about the resurgence of TIF in the area.

With these new developments, and a lot of ones already done over the years, are taxpayers getting significant benefits through the elimination of blight, the creation of new job opportunities, and increased tax value? If those questions are to be answered, don’t look to the Commonwealth: as we pointed out this year, the state hasn’t produced an evaluation on TIF even though it was a requirement in the 1990 law that permitted its use.