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Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, is a tool state lawmakers gave local governments to help communities restore their most run-down areas or jumpstart economically sluggish parts of town. With this tool, financially strapped municipalities can make the improvements they need, like new roads or new sewers, eliminate blighted buildings, and provide incentives to attract businesses or to help existing businesses expand without tapping into general funds or raising taxes.
Since the federal and state governments have greatly reduced their support for economic development, TIF allows municipalities to accept some of this responsibility without raising local property taxes.
TIFs help local governments attract private development and new businesses. New businesses mean more jobs, more customers, and, in turn, more private investment. TIF designation also helps retain existing businesses that might otherwise find more attractive options elsewhere. The jobs and additional investment — private and public — mean more money for the community. As a result, the TIF area itself improves and property values go up.
Without TIF benefits, a deteriorating area will not improve. Businesses do not sink capital into decaying areas and most communities cannot afford the needed costly improvements without raising taxes. But in a TIF district, dollars for improvements are generated by businesses — new and old — attracted by the TIF benefits. Specifically, money for infrastructure improvements and other incentives comes from the growth in property tax revenues — the tax increment.
A tax increment is the difference between the amount of property tax revenue generated before TIF district designation and the amount of property tax revenue generated after TIF designation. Establishment of a TIF does not reduce property tax revenues available to the overlapping taxing bodies.
Property taxes collected on properties included in the TIF at the time of its designation continue to be distributed to the school districts, county, community college and all other affected taxing districts in the same manner as if the TIF did not exist. Only property taxes generated by the incremental increase in the value of these properties after that time are available for use by the TIF.
TIFs create short and long term benefits for communities. TIF benefits include (to name a few):
Tax Increment Financing has proven to be an enduring and widely used economic development tool nationwide. TIFs are more frequently used now than ever because other development tools like Industrial Revenue Bonds and Urban Development and Infrastructure Grants are no longer readily available to local governments.
Billions of dollars in federal and state aid to local governments have been eliminated. At the same time, unfunded federal and state mandates have increased the financial burden on most municipalities. Factor in state imposed property tax caps, and the funding problems facing local governments make it obvious that local governments are left to do more with less.
TIF offers local governments a way to revitalize their communities by expanding their tax base, offsetting, in part, the federal and state funds that are no longer available to them without imposing increased property taxes on the whole community.
No – actually, TIFs can create money for schools.
First, schools continue to receive all the tax revenue they were entitled to before the creation of the TIF district.
Second, under most circumstances, a school's state aid is greater when a school district overlaps a successful TIF district. The incremental growth in property values is excluded from the property tax base when the state calculates the amount of aid it should award to a school district. The "poorer" a school district, the more it stands to benefit from having a TIF district.
Third, the property tax revenue generated from private development attracted by a TIF designation is truly "new" money. Without TIF, development would not occur and the tax increment would not be produced. Not only would new tax money not be generated but also the area itself would remain economically stagnant.
Critics of TIF argue that school districts are entitled to immediately receive a percentage of the TIF increment. However, it is the tax increment that pays for the improvements that attract private investment and stimulates economic growth. If the increment cannot be used for financing improvements and incentives, private investment and economic development will not occur, and no increment will be made available to any taxing bodies.
Fourth, when the TIF district expires, the tax increment that had been used by the municipality to pay off the redevelopment costs is returned to the tax rolls and available to schools and other local taxing bodies---even in areas where property tax "caps" have been adopted.
Fifth, from time to time a TIF district generates more incremental revenue than is needed to retire the TIF debt and pay redevelopment costs. That surplus is often distributed to the other taxing bodies, including schools.
Homeowners and property owners benefit from a successful TIF District in several ways:
TIF captures increases in tax revenue without any change in tax rates. If property values increase as redevelopment occurs, the municipality will receive increased revenues and utilize those revenues to pay for public improvements without increasing tax rates.
The general tax rate in the scenario above stays the same. Only property taxes resulting from any increase in property values, above and beyond the values in the current year, would be designated for future TIF projects.