City council members livid after being left in the dark about another mall development move
A new bill would allow the city to go way over its tax district allocation to funnel more money toward the mall
Some city council members are incensed about a bill that would allow Wausau to bypass state regulations meant to control government incentives. Why? Because not only did they not vote to support it — they didn’t even know about it.
The bill, AB1019 (from 2021), would allow the city to create another tax incremental finance district, District No. 13. It would allow the city to do this (Wausau specifically) by giving it an exemption on a very important tax rule.
Why? The mall. City leaders earlier in the process of redeveloping the Wausau Center mall elected to keep the property out of a TIF district before it was demolished to avoid tanking that district. Rep. Pat Snyder (R-Schofield) said as much in his testimony about the bill.
Now they want to create a TIF district — No. 13 — to funnel more city dollars into a project that’s already received plenty of taxpayer dollars.
To explain, cities can form TIF districts in order to help fund projects that otherwise wouldn’t happen. No developer would revamp an old blighted warehouse because building on empty land is much cheaper.
Instead, a city can create a TIF district and borrow from future tax revenue (it’s more complicated than that, and if you want more details check out The Wausonian’s TIF article from last year). But it also means that the additional tax revenue isn’t going to the city, county, school district and other taxing jurisdictions.
While TIF is a tool that helps municipalities combat blight (especially in downtowns), too much takes too much tax revenue from parks and schools. So to combat this, the state sets limits.
Only 12% of a given municipality’s property (based on equalized value) can be in TIF districts. That’s a limit that keeps cities borrowing against money for the park little Johnny plays in or the textbook little Sally reads at school.
The new law will allow Wausau to skirt this issue.
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