Why No State Reports on the TIF Program?

“The Department of Commerce, in cooperation with other State agencies and local governments, shall make a comprehensive report to the Governor and the General Assembly every two years commencing January 1, 1992, as to the social, economic, and financial effects and impact of tax increment financing projects.” –53 PS 6930.10, Tax Increment Financing Act

 

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County Wants to be Right on Rights

Though there has been a lot of talk about how Marcellus Shale drilling could be a boon for the County, specifically for the County’s coffers if drilling rights were leased on airport land, County officials likely have little firsthand knowledge on what the County owns, if anything, in the way of mineral rights-gas, oil, coal, etc.

That could change if action is taken on a motion that would instruct the County manager’s office to "…determine what mineral rights Allegheny County owns on any parcels within the County and the feasibility and economic value of conveying those mineral rights to other parties for development".

A similar motion was introduced into Council last June but no action was taken on it after it was referred to the Committee on Economic Development and Housing.

It could turn out that the County owns mineral rights under some valuable property in the area. It is doubtful that even if the County owned mineral rights in the middle of, say, a County park, that there would be extraction due to strenuous objections. Recall the 2008 proposal to extract coal in a section of South Park.

Conversely, it could be possible that someone other than the County owns the mineral rights under government structures, that of related County agencies, or perhaps under some of the shiniest new economic development projects carried out in recent years. Could there be drilling next to the County Courthouse in the near future? Or how about digging near the Convention Center?

The proponent of the study wants to use proceeds to reduce the increased property tax burden, which the proponent incorrectly assigns to the new assessments. How about the 21% millage hike passed by Council at the end of 2011? Besides, the County is limited to a 5% windfall that requires a vote of Council. Otherwise, there is no net increase in revenue from the assessment.

The proponent’s comment points out once again how ignorant even County officials are about the assessment process.

City Double Parking on Lease Idea

Under the timeline contained in the "Request for Concessionaire Qualifications" released by the Pittsburgh Public Parking Authority earlier this year, prospective bidders interested in entering into a long-term lease for the publicly owned parking assets were to submit responses to the RFQ by March, due diligence on the applicants would be done through June, final proposals would be due in July, and a close of the deal would occur in November.

That timeline is predicated on the fact that the purpose of the lease is to turn an up front lump sum into a deposit for the anemic pension funds. Under existing state law, if the City can show a 50% minimum funded ratio (assets/liabilities) by the valuation taken in January 2011 then it is business as usual. If that 50% is not met, then the state is going to take over administration of the plans.

So one has to wonder what, if anything, the proposed action by City Council to spend $250k by amending the Capital Budget and Community Block Grant Budget to engage a consultant to study the lease idea does to that timeline and the plan. Presumably, Council is going to have to sign off on the lease idea in the end (notwithstanding any complicated financial arrangements, the Authority owns the assets up for lease consideration) and wants to have the best information available. But what happens if their analysis stretches past the established period of due diligence that is supposed to wrap up this month? What if it even goes into the dog days of July when the pool of bidders (11 parties as of March) is submitting final proposals?