The Charlestown Redevelopment Commission met on Thursday, March 8 at 9:00 AM for their regular session. This meeting was advertised as a public meeting for commission members to “receive and hear remonstrances” related to the creation of a “spider” TIF district to encompass the city’s water utility. I attended this meeting with a number of questions and comments in opposition of this TIF district.
During the open session the first resident to speak asked if the proposed TIF district will cover only new assessed value and if it would negatively impact the fire district. Mayor Bob Hall responded to her “good question” by stating that there is no current budget impact since the utility is not taxed today.
I was allowed to speak next. I asked three questions:
- What is the base assessed value and base revenue of the utility?
- What is the projected incremental assessed value and incremental revenue of the utility?
- What evidence do you have that suggests economic growth will not occur without the proposed intervention of this TIF?
Mayor Hall stumbled through attempted answers to these questions before city attorney Michael Gillenwater informed me that this forum was not for asking questions (despite allowing them from another person), but rather to “make comments so the board can hear them and respond.” I then made the following comments:
- Most of Charlestown is already encompassed in TIF districts and adding another is problematic.
- The sale of the utility has not been approved by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) and the Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) has actually filed an opinion stating that the sale is not in the best interests of the public. I do not understand why this TIF is being created now.
- TIF districts capture money away from school systems as growth occurs, when districts need resources the most.
- The City has not provided a plan for how they will pay off any bonds taken in anticipation of revenue if that revenue does not materialize.
None of the commission members responded, but Mayor Hall offered some comments.
Mayor Hall noted that they “anticipate a positive ruling” in the sale of the utility. He noted that impact on schools is a common argument against TIF and attempted to explain away any detrimental effect by claiming that sewer repairs do not involve business or residential growth. He said that the proposed TIF will not “add one student to any school.” He went on to say if the sale doesn’t go through then “all this is for naught anyway.”
The documents related to the creation of this TIF state plainly that it is being created to motivate economic growth (see post here: 2018-R-1). Part of that growth WILL be new families and new students. After the commission voted and approved the resolution, Mayor Hall remembered he had a guest speaker to address the value of the utility. Jennifer Hudson explained that the real property of the water utility assesses currently at $205,000 and the business and personal property at $5,278,000. Since the current tax rate is ZERO, that means that IF the sale of the utility occurs, the City would see an immediate increase in taxes of over $5.4 million! Schools would get their percentage of that…but now they won’t because the commission created this TIF to capture it all.
Maybe you support TIF districts. Maybe you agree with all of the decisions being made by the Mayor. BUT, you should note that these decisions are being made by the Mayor only. No commission members questioned or supported the citizens who appeared today. Furthermore, the Mayor has resorted to personal attacks. At no point in my posts about political action in Charlestown have I mocked, ridiculed, or made fun of the people with whom I disagree. The Mayor cannot say the same.
At the end of his comments he said,
“The one thing I can say, I am not surprised that this group that’s here today is opposed to this. We get to see you on everything we do.”
No, Mayor Hall, you shouldn’t be surprised that residents who disagree with you would show up to a public meeting established to hear remonstrances. Merriam-Webster defines remonstrance as:
The literal purpose of today’s meeting was to hear our opposition and grievance! Rather than do so in a respectful manner, Mayor Hall snidely brushed our concerns aside as if we are grumpy toddlers who just fuss when we don’t get our way. You might support the Mayor’s decisions, but if you value freedom, democratic governance, and ethical leadership you should NOT support his process.
I don’t know, maybe you SHOULD be surprised, Bob…after all…I VOTED for you. To hear me show up and speak against you must confuse you since I at one time supported you. Or maybe you should check your process and think about what YOU have done to turn me.
Full audio of the meeting is below. Please listen to the way that our city is ignoring the valid concerns of its residents. (Also note that the commission approved a plan to take out a bond to help renovate the hospital at the end of the meeting.)