During their voting the council approved moving forward with the
next step of creating a tax increment financing, or TIF, district in
the downtown portion of the city.
When the vote was taken, it
passed 7-1 with one abstaining. Melody Anderson was absent for the
evening, Buzz Busby voted no, and Tom O'Donohue abstained from
Last Tuesday during the committee of the whole meeting of the
council, John Myers of Rabin & Myers in Springfield along with Lisa
Kramer of Prairie Engineers presented the completed first step of
forming the district: the feasibility study.
Myers said early on that much of the legwork for the study had
been completed by Kramer. He said she had taken photos of every
building in the proposed district area and had complied information
for him that he was able to use in completing the study.
He said the city of Lincoln does qualify for a "conservation TIF
Myers said the city structures had to meet specific requirements
to qualify for this type of TIF.
The tax assessments on the downtown building have to show a
declining value over the last few years. Over 50 percent of the
buildings have to be 35 years old or older, and there has to be
visible deterioration of the buildings. These are only three of the
dozen or so qualifying factors and the three that Myers drew most
upon during his discussion.
Myers said 90 percent of the buildings in the downtown area are
over 35 years old. He said that looking at tax assessment records,
it was clear that building values in the downtown area were
decreasing, and of some 170 buildings inside the target area, 81
percent had some defect.
On the bright side, he commented that of the buildings surveyed,
very few were in a state of dilapidation.
Myers talked about how the TIF could work for the various
business owners downtown as well as the city.
If a building is currently valued at $20,000 and is in need of
improvements, the business owner can obtain a TIF loan to remodel or
refurbish the building. Once refurbished, the building value will go
up and the taxes on the property will increase. If that building
were valued for property tax at $300,000 after rehab, the city could
collect the tax difference between the $20,000 and the $300,000.
That money would be unrestricted cash the city could use in a
variety of ways. They could use it to finance future building
restorations, and they could use it to take care of some of the
infrastructure needs in the downtown area or to fill the gaps in
funds needed for downtown beautification and restoration.
Myers noted specifically that the money could be used to build a
parking garage or lot, or it could be used to improve the city sewer
system in the downtown area.
He told the council that with the feasibility study done, he and
Kramer are ready to move on to the next steps of creating the TIF
For him to move forward, the city would need to pass an ordinance
approving the study.
Then the city would need to vote to approve a letter of
engagement for the rest of his services.
He shared with the council a task list containing 26 items that
he and Kramer would complete in the next stage, with the goal of
having all his work done by March 1, 2013.
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Some of the items discussed on the task list included
establishing a joint review board for the district.
The joint review board will consist of representatives of the
school district and other tax bodies and advisers. He said it would
be their job to offer an opinion to the council on the merit of the
Another item on the list was to adopt rules for an "interested
party registry." Myers said this would be the guide for giving out
information to interested parties, who would otherwise not be
entitled to the information.
Myers said the city would also need to develop a broad-based TIF
budget, which would outline how the city will spend the money they
During the discussions, Melody Anderson questioned using the
money for sewer work. She said she had been of the understanding the
city sewer system had to take care of itself.
Myers said the sewers in Lincoln for the most part are combined
sewers. However, as a general rule, storm sewers are considered to
be a part of the street department, not the sewer department.
This week when the items came to the floor, O'Donohue, who chairs
the ordinance committee, first made the motion to approve the
feasibility study. When it came time to vote, he abstained. As the
city clerk made her way through roll call, everyone else with the
exception of Busby voted in favor.
The second motion was to approve the engagement letter with Myers
and Kramer. Again, O'Donohue made the motion and abstained from
When the roll call made its way to Busby, he said he wanted to
ask a question. He wondered if it was legal for O'Donohue to make a
motion, then abstain from voting.
O'Donohue said he made the motion as the committee chair but was
abstaining from the vote because he had a personal interest in the
outcome. Busby said little else, but cast his vote once again as no.
Later in the evening O'Donohue shared information he had looked
up as the meeting progressed, which confirmed it is legal to make a
motion, then vote against or abstain if desired.
[By NILA SMITH]
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