Monday, June 2, 2014

Times Reports Indiana University Report has TIF with Local Business Tax Breaks

From the Northwest Indiana Times:

Business tax breaks are sweetening the Albanese Confectionery expansion in Hobart and putting a frothier head on a growing Three Floyds brewery in Munster.
Those are some of the prominent examples of how municipal officials use tax abatements and tax increment finance districts to bring in new business.
But that worries those on the Lake County Council who say these tax incentives shrink remaining government revenue needed to fund essential local government services.
The council commissioned a recent study of Lake County government finances by the Indiana University Center for Urban and Regional Excellence.
According to the study, there are 545 real estate parcels in Lake County with tax abatements that have canceled the assessments on new buildings and machinery worth $144.7 million for up to 10 years. The report doesn't specify how much in taxes are lost.
It also says 19 TIF districts diverted $58.4 million in taxes away from general government uses. Instead, that money is spent on new roads and sewers needed to lure new or expanded business construction.
Justin M. Ross, an assistant professor of public finance and economics who authored the report with Madeline Dinges, an IU senior, said, abatements and TIFs are "self-inflicted" income cuts. And they are not only for the community officials who created them, but also in recent years for county, township, school and other local government units that also would otherwise draw taxes from property getting the breaks.
County officials said their finances suffer the most, since every TIF and abatement in Lake negatively affects their tax collections, already hobbled by the state's circuit breaker system that puts a ceiling on the total amount of money local government can tax.
Currently, the county and each town and city can create a TIF without the approval of the other overlapping tax districts that could be negatively affected. Legislation to require all overlapping tax bodies to approve a TIF might help rein them in.
Ross said he is skeptical about whether abatements are effective in snagging new business construction, but it's hard politically to turn away from them. "It's easy to be blamed if you don't offer incentives," Ross said.
The IU report concludes Indiana already has a more favorable tax climate than Illinois, and additional incentives are unlikely to improve a local community's chance of landing new business.
"If you need gimmicks to generate economic activity, then you have a fundamental problem," Ross said.