New TIF Commission Members Wary of Future Tax Breaks

New TIF Commission Members Wary of Future Tax Breaks

More than half the members on the TIF Commission are new and they are promising extra oversight.
(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) A new set of eyes and ears will be reviewing city Tax Increment Financing requests.

More than half of St. Joseph's TIF Commission is new to the board.

After their first meeting this week, it's clear they will be less than generous with handing out tax breaks.

"I think we need to be more discrete about the kinds of TIFs we're giving out and make sure people are doing what they say they're doing," said Lisa Rock, a local realtor and new commission member.

TIFs have been used for several major developments in St. Joseph in recent years including the North Shoppes and also the redevelopment of East Hills Mall.

TIF tax breaks are one of the tools city leaders use to attract and develop new business in blighted areas or where the city's infrastructure can be improved such as its sewers and roads.

"There's still a lot to learn. The more you learn, the more questions you have," Rock said.

The benefit to the business comes in abatement of future taxes based on the amount of improvement made to their site.

"A lot of people have the perception that it's free money for developers," said Scott Pemberton, another new commission member. "They probably can do a lot of these projects without the incentive."

Rock acknowledges some problems with past TIF approvals.

"There's been a lot of controversy over the applications that are not being followed through with what everybody else understood they were supposed to be," she said.

New TIF commission members say they aren't going to discount all future TIF requests, but they are going to be careful.

"There's a time and place for a TIF," said Beau Musser. He is a new TIF member representing the St. Joseph School District. "We hope that those that come bring good jobs and benefit the community as a whole."

"I do believe in TIFs. I think that they are, do a degree I think we still need to consider them," Rock said. "I don't think they should be handed out like candy."

Musser says he's extra cautious about future tax breaks. Many TIFs affect property taxes, which is a big funding source for the schools.
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