Why TIF monies should be used for monument

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Last week I brought to our city councilís attention the need for TIF (Tax Increment Financing) funds to finally close the 44 year gap of no signage/no arch at the corner of Highway 2 and Nucleus Avenue. Some concerns and comments from our Mayor and Council followed. Iíll try to give some perspective regarding this project.

The simple facts are an arch was built for this critical intersection in 1963. (Interestingly Ray Barnhart a more senior Barnhart to our mayor actually dug the holes and carried the arch to its location). The arch fell in September, 1975. Forty-four short years later a handful of volunteers all worked and pushed to finally get the monuments up before this yearís tourist season. It was close but we got them in place just in time for the season. The positive economic benefit for the Nucleus Business District has been more than obvious.

Raising $50,000 or more from businesses is not easy but we thought we had it covered. Due to a couple of hiccups our construction costs grew and weíre in need of $13,000. Hereís where it gets interesting.

Three or four years ago City Manager Susan Nicosia had the foresight to request, create and secure a Tax Increment Financing District (TIF). Hereís how TIF works. If you owned property in TIF and your property tax bill was $10,000 at the time the TIF was created that is effectively your property tax baseline. In future years (as many of us know) your new tax bill is say $14,000. The $4,000 property tax increase goes into the TIF fund. These TIF funds are to be used for the overall health and betterment of the TIF business district.

To answer councilís concern regarding Columbia Falls taxpayer costs, the simple answer is not one nickel not one dime will be charged to any taxpayer.

TIF business taxpayers like myself are living with 25 percent to 40 percent property tax increases on Nucleus Avenue. We are the ones funding TIF and I can say with confidence if any TIF business person were asked, their answer would be 100 percent ... ďWe want the monuments paid for yesterday.Ē

Isnít 44 years long enough to wait? At least this group of private sector volunteers actually got the monuments upright.

Now it is time for our council to release funding some of us have already paid for. Letís finally finish this project the right way. Put this intersection to bed for at least the next 44 years.

Dave Petersen

Columbia Falls

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