New Southwest Tax Increment Financing District might raise $800,000 next year

skennedy@bradenton.comMay 13, 2014 

If available, half of tax district money would be used on redevelopment projects

MANATEE -- The new Southwest Tax Increment Financing District taking shape in Manatee County might raise $800,000 next year if property values go up 3 percent, officials said Tuesday.

The money would be split 50-50 between a fund for the district earmarked for redevelopment projects and the county's general fund, said County Administrator Ed Hunzeker after a workshop with commissioners.

Proposed uses for the money include infrastructure improvements such as better lighting, parks, and playgrounds, building rehabilitation and small business economic development, according to county documents.

"We believe the 50 percent gives us enough money to make significant progress," said Deputy County Administrator Dan Schlandt.

The new TIF District would stretch from Manatee Avenue on the north to the Sarasota County line on the south, and from Sarasota Bay on the west to U.S. 301 on the east.

Officials plan to dissolve the county's two current Community Redevelopment Areas on Oct. 1 under terms of a draft ordinance county commissioners reviewed at a work session.

Money for improvements in the new district would come from property values increasing as blighted areas are revitalized, Hunzeker said.

Hunzeker said he is "impatient" to get started and is contemplating some type of loan to kick-start change.

Commissioner Michael Gallen said he researched similar efforts elsewhere and urged fellow commissioners to insist on checks and balances to ensure TIF money is used appropriately.

For instance, one study found small businesses are at a disadvantage versus larger ones when competing for funding, resident wishes are sometimes overlooked and "slush funds" can be a problem, Gallen said.

"I trust our board now," he said, but he feared the district could lose focus on redevelopment of historically blighted areas over time.

"The ordinance is written very broad in that respect," he added. "We could do anything with this money, practically anything."

A Tuesday presentation on proposed county park fee schedule changes has been postponed.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter@sarawrites.

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