It’s time for change, not politics as usual.
Tax Increment Financing/Urban Renewal
Tax increment financing (TIF) was established by the legislature in the 1970s as an innovative way to finance infrastructure—roads, water, sewer and other necessary improvements in ski towns and other locations. Unfortunately, this mechanism has been abused by some Urban Renewal Authorities in Colorado to benefit corporations and developers at the expense of taxpayers. The proliferation of these districts poses a huge danger to Colorado taxpayers and schools.
As your state representative:
1. I will work to amend Colorado’s TIF/Urban Renewal statutes so they more accurately follow legislative intent for Tax Increment Financing. Specifically, the proposed legislation would require: a) the Boards running Tax Increment/Urban Renewal Districts and issuing bonds be elected, not appointed so they are accountable to taxpayers. b) That no proposal for an urban renewal project utilizing TIF can be brought forth to the local government for approval until a precise description of the project including a list projects to be built, their cost, how much increment will be generated, and an agreement with local taxing authorities including school districts have been agreed to.
2. I will make other changes to the existing statute to insure that urban renewal projects are only used to fund infrastructure required for necessary development and not corporate welfare for developers.
In 1980, as a developer, I worked with the City of Thornton, Colorado, to establish one of the first TIF/Urban Renewal projects in the Metropolitan area. The purpose of that was to finance construction of the Thornton Parkway Interchange on I-25. No bond money went to subsidize any developers. That project benefited Thornton, Adams County, and the school district by greatly increasing local tax revenue. That is how urban renewal was designed to work.
In 2014, the Littleton Urban Authority (LIFT) approved two large urban renewal projects totaling 744 acres. I had serious reservations about the proposals because I did not think they complied with the state legislation. I also saw them as corporate welfare and unnecessary for reasonable development in Littleton. Taking the incremental tax revenue from 744 acres of prime land from Littleton Public Schools for 25 years would be detrimental to Littleton’s children, in my view.
After they proposals were rushed through, citizens collected signatures and passed a Charter amendment requiring voter approval before the appointed LIFT Board could proceed with an urban renewal project. I supported that effort and helped pass it. The City, however, ignored the vote of the people and grand-fathered the two proposals even though little detail was put forth. Now, City Council may have seen the error of its ways, and it is considering rolling back these Urban Renewal districts.
The legislature must tighten up the Tax Increment financing law to slow down this current proliferation of TIF districts statewide before they put local governments and school districts in financial jeopardy, as well as the state.
I am working to get legislation passed to require that urban renewal boards be elected and serve for a set term with term limits. It would also require that before an urban renewal authority can present a plan or project for approval, all information must be disclosed to the public including how much money is required; what they money will be used for; what the bond issue amount and duration will be; and how much increment will be generated; how much increment will be required for the bond issue; and how much will go to local governments and school districts. There must be accountability.
This is important: if urban renewal districts expand at the current rate, the state budget will be severely damaged just by backfilling the shortfall in school funding.