On Nov. 5, Barre City residents will vote on whether or not to approve a $2,200,000 bond to develop parking behind North Main Street and Enterprise Alley. The Barre Area Development Corporation, a nonprofit economic development corporation serving the Barre area since 1961, strongly urges the voters to approve the bond.
The reasons why are:
1. The parking and related improvements are long-term public assets necessary to encourage new private development and investment. 2. Bond payments will not raise property taxes.
3. Bond approval will encourage the Central Vermont Community Land Trust to proceed with its current plan to develop tax paying property between North Main and Summer streets.
4. Vermontís Economic Progress Council (VEPC) approved the cityís Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Plan, only of one of seven approved in Vermont, based on a determination that without additional public investment, new private development is unlikely to occur. The state of Vermont is the cityís partner, an endorsement that the Barre Area Development Corporation welcomes, as we hope the city and its residents do.
5. For a period of 20 years following borrowing, instead of sending all of the commercial Education Tax Revenue back to the state, the city can use up to 75 percent of the new tax revenue resulting from the cityís TIF district (the same boundaries of the Designated Downtown) to establish a reserve fund to repay the bond. As required by law, the city will also contribute an equal percentage of incremental municipal property tax revenue to the reserve fund.
6. The city has already identified enough of the new revenue to cover the projected bond payments based on development and increased property values that have occurred since April 2012. During the life of the Tax Increment Financing District in downtown Barre, projected new development is likely to result in a well-funded TIF reserve that can support additional public projects elsewhere in the district, specifically additional parking and sidewalks along Merchants Row. With approval from VEPC, the city can amend its plan as may be necessary to subtract or add improvements.
7. The State Education Fund and the cityís General Fund will still receive 25 percent of the incremental revenue during the 20-year period. This will help the city with any of the costs associated with maintaining new public assets, and the new development will also continue to contribute to the State Education Fund.
8. No additional debt will be incurred unless the voters approve of it.
9. State legislation includes the adoption of regulatory controls and reporting that enhances transparency and accountability.
10. When the TIF District sunsets and bond repayments have ended, the grand list of the TIF district will be returning full value to the State Education Fund, and will further stabilize property taxes for the cityís residents.
The choice for voters is clear. Bond approval retains millions of dollars of new revenue that would otherwise be returned to the state and buys more public parking that encourages growth and job creation.
Failure to approve the bond delays and potentially kills new private investment.
BADC believes voter approval of the bond is the right thing to do.
Joel Schwartz is executive director of Barre Area Development Corporation. Pete Fournier is the BADC president.MORE IN Commentary
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