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Howard County, Columbia Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Repeal, County Council Hearing


Howard County, Columbia Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Repeal, County Council Hearing

Hiruy Hadgu

I support the repeal of the Columbia tax increment financing (TIF - definition), which authorized the county to issue a $90 million tax increment financing for the construction of a public parking garage, roads, and intersection improvements in Downtown Columbia.

Since it has now been decided that the money would not be used for its originally intended purpose, it is only appropriate to repeal the bill and save tax-payer money from waste.

From the beginning, the TIF was a mistake. Proponents of the TIF, including the County Executive say that growth in Downtown Columbia is inevitable but it would take more than 25 years without the additional incentive.

Like taking steroids to accelerate muscle growth, proponents want to accelerate growth by using the TIF and bring about the inevitable sooner.

This is a bad deal for tax-payers, for our students and teachers, for our fire fighters, and police as it takes money away from essential needs.

It will put additional burdens on our citizens as the County will be forced to raise more debt to deal with the negative consequences of accelerated growth. It risks the County’s AAA credit rating.

A few weeks ago, the county council voted to establish a special taxing district at the Laurel Park Station with a justification that “there is no harm” if the taxing district is established and that it would not require the county to levy any taxes.

We are now witnessing one of the potential “harms” of such misguided proposals.

Once the TIF passed, it has created the impetus to leave it even though the dubious circumstances under which it was justified and approved in the first place do not exist.

Unfortunately, the County Executive does not appear to support this repeal. He stated that the money will now be used to improve roads instead.

I am glad that road improvements will take place to alleviate the increased demands due to the rapid developments taking place in Downtown Columbia.

However, a TIF is not the way to do road improvements. During the Adequate Public Facilities Review Task Force deliberations, only one out of the four proposals pertaining to Downtown Columbia was approved. The proposals that were voted down pertained to level of services for roads.

If the County Executive and others concerned about roads want to address these problems, I urge them to amend the current APFO legislation CB61 and 62 and provide for stronger standards.

It is already concerning that Howard Hughes Corporation’s development rights and responsibilities agreement provides exemptions from the county’s already weak APFO standards.

Using the TIF money to build roads would further let HHC out of its obligations as the developer to build the roads for the growth it creates. The initial agreement has changed, and the terms cannot be adjusted without public debate.

I think we are focusing too much on this dream of building cities and not anticipating the nightmare that ensues when we have to deal with poor infrastructure.

I suggest we focus more on making sure we can withstand another 1000 year flood and how to prevent the next school redistricting proposal that would move 9,000 students, rather than thinking about how to accelerate growth.

I applaud the Councilmembers Ball and Terrasa for introducing this bill and I hope it passes and gets signed by the County Executive.