Entries Tagged 'TIFs' ↓

Several Reasons why the Sioux Steel TIF should be voted down

Last night at the Sioux Falls City Council meeting it was the first reading of the Sioux Steel TIF proposal (2nd reading is on  February 3rd). I spoke for my whopping 3 minutes about why it is a bad idea, I was able to run thru these points (FF video to 1:30)

• Planning Staff (Public employees) SHOULD not be recommending tax cuts or rebates to publicly elected officials (city councilors). While it is their job to lay out the pros and cons and basic criteria, employee salaries funded by our tax dollars should not be cheerleaders for private business. It goes against our free enterprise system and frankly is unethical.

• The property does not provide affordable housing OR clean up blight (The blight that does exist on the property is from the current property owner who is going to redevelop the property). We have known about environmental issues with this kind of manufacturing since the 1960’s. We were not born yesterday, you blighted this land, it is your responsibility to clean it up.

• Very little new economic growth will be produced, it will only be diverting development from other parts of the city, as well as diverting lodging from other parts of downtown. We know that over the past 5-6 years the city has seen a decrease in lodging taxes and stays do to a popularity in Air BNB, and the fact that people are not spending the night in Sioux Falls. The Events Center is a great example of how NEW economic growth and taxes will not come rolling in due to this project. In fact it competes with our current taxpayer subsidized convention center. Since the EC has been in existence, sales tax revenue has been at it’s normal snail pace until last year.

• We really don’t need more parking ramps downtown. We already have one waiting for a hotel to be built on top of it. Why are we not focusing on fixing that fiasco?

• The 20 year TIF will only produce $1.1 million in property taxes. If we forgo the tax and the project is scaled back, we would bring in around $10 million in the same time period. And if we also forgo the river greenway improvements of $10 million and just gift the development the property, it would be a $20 million dollar windfall for taxpayers instead of $1.1 million. I actually believe the development is bluffing about scaling it back, they would find the financing elsewhere, and even if they canceled the whole project (which I think they won’t) it wouldn’t harm us one bit.

• Most of the jobs created by the project will be hospitality, most of which are part-time and with few benefits.

THERE HAS NEVER BEEN AN ACTUAL TIF ECONOMIC IMPACT STUDY IN SIOUX FALLS. This is one of the main reasons why this should be voted down. A comprehensive study would show us that there has been very little economic impact to citizens, in fact, it has probably forced individual property owners to pay higher taxes.

TIFs that don’t address real blight and affordable housing are really only a handout. It is unfortunate that the public is very ignorant about TIFs and the effect it has on their personal taxes while providing very little benefits. I can’t blame the developers for asking for this. What if your banker said to you one day, “There is this tax incentive program that will refund your property taxes for 20 years so you can improve your personal property.” Wouldn’t you jump at it? I would. Damn right I would. This is why I have argued to any city official that would listen for well over a decade that TIFs should be used to cleanup personal properties in low income working class neighborhoods instead, this would be real economic impact to the residents of Sioux Falls. But, hey, shiny things are fun to look at when the business elite are laughing all the way to the bank.

We would accrue more property taxes if Sioux Steel project doesn’t receive TIF

We have heard the argument already, if we give the $21.5 million dollar TIF the property will have a tax worth of $1.6 million a year. But folks those tax payments don’t occur until 20 years from now as Joe Sneve’s story pointed out.

So if we give them the TIF, for the next 20 years they will be paying $56K a year. So in 20 years they will be paying a total of $1.12 million in taxes for a $185 million dollar facility. Hardly anything.

BUT, if we don’t give them the TIF, the value of the project would be approximately $163.5 million (flat parking lot) with an annual tax bill that they must pay on day one of about $1.4 million a year with no rebate, a value of $28 million in collected taxes in 20 years.

Common sense would tell us that getting $28 million over the next 20 years in property taxes as opposed to $1.12 is a better deal for city coffers.

Also look at the economic impact argument. They said they would have to forgo the parking ramp if they don’t get the TIF. How many jobs does a parking ramp provide? ZERO. Whether they build flat parking or a ramp, there really isn’t a economic impact either way.

Not only could this project still be successful without the TIF, the property tax revenue is over 20X more if we forgo the TIF. On top of that, the owner and developer of this project could sell at the end of TIF and get all the benefits of the tax rebate without ever paying a 100% of the tax bill. It is a windfall for them, and little else.

Not sure who is doing the math at the Planning Department, but this TIF is anything but an economic impact. They will be voting on the first hurdle tonight at the 6 PM Planning meeting.

It is extremely unethical for public employees to recommend approval of a TIF

As I have complained about in the past, it rubs me the wrong way that the Sioux Falls Planning staff recommends approval or denial of items on their agenda. It is the job of the Planning Commission to study the merits of a proposal from the information staff provides, it is NOT the job of public employees to recommend approval. Layout the plan, show the compatibility than let the Planning Commission decide based on the information.

While zoning and development in general is one thing, a massive 20 year, multi-million dollar tax rebate is totally different.

The Planning Commission can deny this proposal simply based on the fact that we don’t really know if the TIF will be beneficial or not. Denying the TIF would simply mean the PRIVATE developer would have to go back to the drawing board, the citizen taxpayers would not be harmed one iota if this was denied. In fact I would go step further and say that approving this TIF would be harmful to the 100% property tax paying citizen of our city because we would have to pay more in taxes to prop up this private venture.

I still think the city council needs to pass an ordinance forbidding planning staff or any public employee (that is hired, not elected) from recommending approval of endeavors that benefit private business. It’s unethical, if not highly suspect.

Sioux Falls Citizen Advocate asks great question about building permit valuations

Mark Weber is a regular inputer at council meetings, mostly on economic issues (I believe he has an economics degree). He recently sent this email to a city councilor;

For a long time (years) the finance department provides monthly graph of value of building permits, and a comparison to at least the previous couple of years.  I would be interested in knowing both the value and percentage of building permits that become part of the tax base, which would give a more realistic indicator, ie. projects of the city (public sector), non-profits (hospital), portion of private enterprise or public / private partnership that have been granted TIF.  I don’t believe any of this becomes part of the tax base (TIF’s eventually in 20 years).

Has anyone on the council already asked this question and I am unaware of the results?  I think this would be useful information to the taxpayers of Sioux Falls.

I have been an advocate for several years that when it comes to building permit valuations for the year it should be separated into categories, as Mark has suggested. Public projects and non-profits that don’t pay property taxes really can’t be put in the same basket. It was a way for city administrators to inflate numbers. Just look at the new Jefferson HS project. I can guarantee that we wouldn’t have even gotten close to last year’s record without it on the books. If they are paying NO property taxes (actually costing us), or are receiving rebates in the form of TIFs and BIDs how can it be a true economic indicator? It’s not, it’s just propaganda. I have asked the council for years to demand the administration break down the numbers and give a true representation.

Sioux Falls Planning Department explains Sioux Steel TIF

Dustin does a nice job of explaining the proposed TIF. While I disagree with ‘editorilizing’ the proposal, at least he does explain it in detail. I believe the TIF will pass 8-0. I don’t think one single councilor has the appetite to vote against it. What I do hope though is they negotiate a better deal for the taxpayers. I would really like to see the parking ramp FREE 24/7 not just at nights and weekends (unless you are using a valet service from the hotel/convention center). I would also like to see a non-compete clause with the CVB when it comes to the kind of conventions they book there. We are really cutting the private developer a ‘blank’ check’ worth well over $30 million (TIF + BID + River Greenway). I also struggle with the $25 million dollar yearly economic impact. Whether the place gets built or not, people still have other places to stay downtown, eat downtown and park downtown. That money is being spent already with or without this project. All they are saying is that money is being re-directed to their site from other competition that already exists in Sioux Falls and Downtown.

Sioux Steel Development justifying 20 year, $22.6 million dollar tax break on economic impact patrons will contribute to

While I have no reason to argue with the data (maybe a little), what they left out of their presentation this afternoon at the informational meeting was that the supposed $25 million dollar a year economic impact doesn’t come from the owners of the development, it comes from their customers, whether local or visitors. They also left out that a large amount of this ‘economic impact’ goes straight into their pockets. So really, what is the justification of the TIF and BID Tax rebates?

When you build a ‘for profit’ business in a capitalist society, you expect to make a profit. Why should you be also rewarded tax breaks? I would think a ‘for profit’ private business that is expecting to have a $25 million dollar impact a year, wouldn’t need any handouts, breaks or rebates. I would think they would be smiling all the way to the bank and simply thanking the city for issuing the permits.

When I look at TIFs I always ask the same question, “What is the benefit to the public as a whole, you know, the ones who have to pay higher property taxes to supplement this TIF?” While I appreciate the study, the only thing it shows me is the money that it will be generating will mostly be helping them.

I would be willing to still give a BID and TIF to the development, but only for the benefit of the city. As I have suggested in the past, I think the city should gift them Kiwanis Park and grant them a TIF for the amount it would take to redevelop that part of the project and forgo the additional $10 million it is supposed to cost taxpayers to redevelop the river greenway, which really makes this a $32.6 million dollar tax break when you add it all together.

I think the city council should amend this TIF, make it a lot smaller and reduce the TIF time limit to 5 years.

After hearing the council tonight discuss the TIF, I have no doubt this will pass. And hey, if you want to support corporate welfare based on a study the developer produced (not the public) so be it, but at least ask for a study that shows the REAL benefit to the rest of us in this community who are paying 100% of their property taxes and always have. You know why they will never produce such a study? Because they won’t like the results.

You also have to take into account, the study they did on economic impact is a ‘prediction’. The study I have asked for is of our current TIFs and what benefit we are getting from them. This would give us REAL data to base their prediction on. Government should never base a 20 year, multi-million dollar tax break on ‘predictions’ of what could happen, but should base them on actual data that already exists. Will they have to courage to ask for it? Probably not.

UPDATE: The ‘TIF’ Threat

I still remember attending the open house about the Sioux Steel Development at Josiah’s. Many people from the public offered their opinions at the meeting, as did I. I remember telling them it was a great idea, but I advised them to ‘go it alone’ and not get the city involved. I remember Rysdons’ incredulous look. Shocker! They didn’t take my advice.

It’s like the playbook never changes, when a developer in Sioux Falls wants a TIF they use the tired old threat,

Right now, the Sioux Steel site is valued at about $3.1 million by the county equalization office, resulting in an annual tax bill of $57,000. When the project is complete, the anticipated property tax payment would be around $1.58 million a year.

That equates to a 14 YEAR TAX BREAK!

Without it, parking to service the businesses included in the vision would likely be scaled down to surface parking lots, said Jake Quasney, executive vice president of development for Lloyd Cos.

“What would happen if we didn’t do the parking ramp, we’d build a scaled down version of the hotel and conference center, maybe some apartments and some surface parking,” he said.

Oh Well?

These are private developers that are already getting around $10 million from taxpayers to upgrade the river greenway along their property (something else I’m opposed to – because I think the city should just sell them Kiwanis Park and let them ‘upgrade it’). They are also ‘Private’. Why should the city be concerned if they scale back the project? Which brings us to another interesting factor. As we are trying to get the EC campus to get it’s poop in a group so the CVB (that we fund) can bring in more conventions, this private development wants to build a convention center, downtown. While I will applaud them, because it is a great idea, it is still private. So why would we give property tax rebates to a private development that will be competing with taxpayers for conventions? It is insane! It would be like paying Wild Water West to accept the City of Sioux Falls pool passes!

In this ARTICLE and STUDY they lay out what TIF’s really do;

“On average, [TIF] may be moving development from one part of the city to another, and changing the timing of the development, but there’s not more development than would have otherwise been made,” Merriman said.

Basically he is saying that you are robbing Peter to pay Paul. As I have argued, the development will happen anyway – with or without the TIF.

In addition, this is a tool with several drawbacks. According to Merriman, TIFs might “capture” some tax revenue above the capped “base value” that may have been generated anyway through natural appreciation in property values if the TIF hadn’t been created. This is money that taxpayers might have otherwise paid directly towards an overlapping school district, or for public services. And while TIF is not a direct tax increase, it may lead to higher rates or service cuts elsewhere, if the city plans on bringing in the same general property tax revenue as before TIF.

In other words, while this PRIVATE developer is getting a massive 14 year tax break, the rest of us are paying higher taxes to support it. Even with provable economic impact, those higher taxes for the rest of us don’t offset what benefit we would get from it. In other words the only one who is really benefitting is the developer.

Also take note that we have bonded for several major projects recently, the Denty, the City Admin Building, the Bunker Ramp, the new jail, the new schools and very soon the public safety training facility and water plant. At rough estimates that is about $680 million in new bonds over a short period of time with a payoff amount exceeding $1 Billion.

There is something else developers and city leaders like about TIFs;

Perhaps the biggest concern with TIF, though, is that of transparency, because of the way this mechanism effectively bypasses the public municipal budget process.

“Once a TIF is created, the operation of a TIF receives less scrutiny than other spending,” Merriman said.

In other words the public is essentially left out of that process and is usually given ZERO evidence that it will help us. But in this town, we love closed door deals, 5G is a great example of this.

Not everything about TIFs is bad, if used properly;

But TIF is good for sparking public-private partnerships that may help fund useful infrastructure that may not otherwise be appealing to investors, such as raising the height of a bridge tunnel so it can carry large trucks, for example. In the report, Merriman recommends several ways to use this tool more effectively, and make it easier for policymakers and researchers to evaluate. Most important: Cities needs to be more transparent about how they are using TIF. It’s not a magic free-money generator.

“It’s a concern about why those decisions are being made,” he said, “and why there’s a public subsidy for development that might have occurred even without the subsidy.”

So is the Sioux Steel development giving Sioux Falls residents something we need to improve quality of life and infrastructure? Not one iota. In fact the infrastructure upgrades to the river greenway along this development is being paid for by us. I would even be willing to gift the development the river greenway land, give them a smaller TIF, and have them upgrade it. There the taxpayers would benefit.

I also enjoyed this little tidbit;

The ramp portion of the project is estimated to cost about $22.6 million.

So they are going to build another Bunker Ramp downtown for about $25K a space. How is this possible? I will tell you – BECAUSE THAT IS THE F’ING GOING RATE! Never mind that hand soap sanitizer man child Neitzert has told you different. The cost for the Bunker Ramp was incredibly inflated and we said it from the beginning. With the new codes in place they will have to build this facility with the proper lighting, fire suppression and generator power – just like the bunker ramp.

I will say this, I think the concept of this development is fantastic, and I commend them on it, but like most things ‘FREE ENTERPRISE’ I also believe they can sink or swim on their own. TIF or NO TIF, it will be successful, and they know it, they just want to save a little money, that is obvious. I encourage every single public servant who is voting on this to request a comprehensive TIF study in Sioux Falls on economic impact and workforce development. I would even go so far to say that the city pays for it and has one of our public universities do it. It seems like when we ask for TIFs in Sioux Falls, it is all based on a whim, and NOT reality. Don’t be suckered by the ‘threats’. Make the one’s asking provide the evidence that this will help us. I already know the answer and this is why they avoid the study.

UPDATE: I see they are bringing out the ‘big guns’ on this, employing everyone in the (paid) media to tell us that this is a partnership with the community;

Both current downtown redevelopment projects require some level of partnership with our city government. In the case of the rail yard development, the city is being asked to sell land. In the case of the Sioux Steel development, the city is being asked to approve tax increment financing.

It sure is a partnership. The developer gets a gigantic tax break and all of our taxes continue to go up. Who wouldn’t be for this kind of ‘partnership’? Comparing the railyard project to getting a TIF is hardly a comparison. Did we get what we wanted for the land? Nope. But that was never going to happen. I think it is wise for the city to liquidate property so it can start generating tax revenue. Unlike what they did with Phillips to the Falls where the city ‘sat on’ land and held it for 11 years for a developer. They were never going to sell it to anyone else. And surprise, surprise, the same the developer is going to the trough once again.

It will be fun to watch the predictability of how this will play out. They asked for $21 million, but the city will come back and say we will give you ‘X’ amount instead. Then the city will brag about how they negotiated a better deal. It’s the old bait and switch the energy companies have been playing for years with rate increases. They always ask for double of what they really want or need then make it look like they cut a deal with the PUC. Old’s trick in the book, and our elected officials fall for it everytime.

UPDATE: Sioux Steel Development wants to get a TIF, as we suspected

UPDATE: You will see in the Planning Commission Working Session on December 3, they are already going to be talking about the TIF for the Sioux Steel Development. They will try to ramrod this TIF through as fast as they can before anyone notices what is going on.

I will stick with my main four arguments against this TIF;

• Free Enterprise and Capitalism. I think this development will do just fine with private investment and doesn’t need any tax rebates. It is just corporate welfare.

• The development is already going to receive around $10 million in tax payer subsidies from the River Greenway upgrades.

• Sioux Steel is moving all of their operations out of Sioux Falls to Lennox and replacing those good manufacturing jobs with low paying hospitality jobs.

• TIFs have yet to be proven they improve the overall economy of Sioux Falls. Oh, sure, they help the bottom line of the developer, but NO comprehensive study has ever been done in Sioux Falls showing TIFs pay for themselves in economic impact or workforce development. All they really do is raise taxes on the rest of us.

It will be interesting to hear the arguments as to why they need this TIF. It also will be interesting to hear how they are building a parking ramp twice the size of the bunker ramp for the same price.

The rumors were true, the Sioux Steel development is asking for $21.5 million in a TIF for their project they are coordinating with Lloyd Companies. They say it will be used to offset the costs of an 8 story parking ramp with over 900 stalls. Interesting they can build a parking ramp twice the size of our bunker ramp for the same price.

This is the area we should have put the bunker ramp to begin with. So now they want a tax rebate to build a parking ramp when we will have an empty one sitting downtown.

And isn’t the timing of this project also interesting? Suddenly the city didn’t want to work with Lamont so they breached the contract and now ‘another’ hotel is being announced DTSF that wants a tax rebate to build a parking ramp. And isn’t it interesting that the Mayor’s COS used to work for the developer who is working on the project and is considered an expert in writing TIFs?

As for the TIF, you know my feelings on them. They have yet to prove that the TIFs that already exist in Sioux Falls or ones we may grant have ever helped our economy. They have certainly done one thing, raised property taxes on the rest of us. And every time I have asked to show evidence all I hear is crickets. Even if I was for TIFs, I would certainly question why this development needs one? We are already going to invest $10 million in the river greenway along this development (essentially paying for their riverside landscaping and curb appeal, walkways and bike trail upgrades).

But the biggest reason we should oppose the TIF is that Sioux Steel will probably be moving all of their Sioux Falls operations to Lennox and NOT relocating in Sioux Falls. Why would we reward them with a TIF as they are taking their manufacturing business elsewhere and replacing it with low paying hospitality jobs?

Of course, most of the council will support this, and probably will give us NO evidence that TIFs work. That’s because the evidence doesn’t exist.

Sioux Falls City Councilors at Dem Forum • 4/5/2019

Janet Brekke, Theresa Stehly and Pat Starr bring their Sioux Falls SD citizen first messages to a joint Friday Democratic Forum lunch crowd on April 5, 2019.

The past TWO Parks Board meetings have been videotaped, you can’t watch them HERE under the RECENT tab. There has never been a formal press release or announcement of this to the public or city council. I found out from a personal email from Jason Reisdorfer.

Sioux Falls needs Independent TIF study BEFORE moving forward with anymore massive TIFs

With the latest news that another developer is trying to roll the city with a massive TIF, now is the time for a comprehensive TIF study. But this study can’t come from the city or from private developers. The study needs to be conducted by one of our Public Universities as a student research project. Anything the city or a private developer will produce will be fudged. Remember the siding report that mysteriously disappeared? Or the 2nd one that was edited by public works?

The study needs to determine if there has been an actual economic impact in job growth, personal wealth, ect. Over the past decade (especially since the 2008 recession) while development growth has been record breaking, we also have to realize that crime has increased, taxes and fees have gone up at record rates, housing has gotten more expensive, wages have remained stagnant and food banks and kitchens are expanding more and more.

If TIFs have helped anybody, it has certainly been the developers bottom line, because like Reaganomics it certainly hasn’t trickled down to shrinking middle class.

We need to see a study and it needs to be independent.