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City-County Council, mayor settle on TIF policy

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Developers receiving tax-increment finance money from the city of Indianapolis will be asked to set local hiring goals under a new TIF policy agreed upon by City-County Council leaders and Mayor Greg Ballard's administration.

The TIF policy is spelled out in an agreement adopted Monday night by the council's Metropolitan and Economic Development Committee. The Metropolitan Development Commission accepted it earlier this month.

“What this does is it puts discipline around how you analyze a TIF and clear expectations for those who want to propose a TIF,” Council Vice President John Barth said.

The policy could quell the controversy that tends to surround TIF districts, which capture property-tax revenue from new developments for the benefit of a district rather than the entire city. Some councilors have questioned the continued creation of TIF districts, given the impact on other taxing entities, including schools, and the city's ongoing struggle to pay for basic services.

Barth and Vop Osili, the other Democratic councilor who worked on the agreement with Ballard's team, each have backed the creation or expansion of TIF districts. Osili was a key vote on the controversial expansion of the downtown TIF district to include Massachusetts Avenue.

Part of that deal, which paved the way for redevelopment of the city's fire station property, requires developers and builders to hire people who live in the district or adjoining neighborhoods.

Ballard's team readily agreed to make local hiring part of the policy, which includes clawback provisions, Osili said. “When we're spending Marion County taxpayers' dollars, it's important we consider who the beneficiaries are,” he said.

Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Deron Kintner couldn't be reached for comment.

Kintner resisted being locked into new rules regarding TIF districts when former council Vice President Brian Mahern spearheaded a TIF study commission in 2012. At the time, Mahern tried to use support for the Mass Ave project as a bargaining chip that would force Ballard's administration to accept new policies. 

The agreement that Kintner, Metropolitan Development Director Adam Thies and Controller Jason Dudich hammered out with the councilors mirrors the commission's findings but leaves some wiggle room for the administration, saying, for example, that TIF districts should not capture revenue from buildings already under construction “absent substantial justification.”

The next new TIF district will likely be along Madison Avenue on the south side. Under the policy, the administration is to give at least 30 days notice to the chairman of the Metropolitan and Economic Development Committee, the Metropolitan Development Commission and affected taxing entities, which includes school districts.

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