Building Streetcar = NO Property Tax Relief

030415fptop pix1By Robert Miranda, Editor, Wisconsin Spanish Journal, and Chris Johnson, Editor/Publisher, KINGFISHmke.com 

To develop the downtown streetcar Mayor Barrett, we now know, had to create a tax incremental district (TID) which pays the debt incurred by the streetcar project.

TID #82 (East Michigan) was created to pay the debt of the downtown streetcar. However, realizing that TID #82 did not have a healthy revenue stream the mayor needed to pay on the debt the streetcar project will create, the mayor looked to existing TIDs #56 (Erie/Jefferson Riverwalk) and #49 (Cathedral Place) as the healthy tax revenue streams his streetcar project needed.

Seeing that these TIDs had healthy revenue streams, the mayor moved to amend these TIDs to become donor TIDs and is now proceeding to shift their revenue streams towards paying into the development of the downtown streetcar instead of paying into the taxing entities including MPS and MATC.

We know that shifting the revenue streams of TID #56 and #49 away from the taxing entities towards paying off the streetcar debt, was a shift of huge revenue streams that not only takes money away from paying into education, it also affects any potential property tax relief for Milwaukee property owners.

The question being asked: is amending TIDs that should be terminated after they have performed their initial function and then become donor TIDs to projects like the streetcar legal? In a word, yes.

However, is the mayor being morally sound when he amends TID #56 and #49 to become donor TIDs to finance TID #82 streetcar project? In a word, no.

Mayor Barrett argues that he is not taking money away from paying into education or helping Milwaukee property tax payers get property tax relief. This simply is not true. The fact is Mayor Barrett is taking money away from education and preventing potential property tax relief.

If the mayor did not amend TID #56 and #49 to become donor TIDs to help pay for the downtown streetcar, these TIDs could have been terminated and the revenue streams created by the growing value of the TID area, which produced new taxes, would have been shifted towards paying into the taxing entities, including education.

More money from these TIDs going into the taxing entities could mean property tax relief for Milwaukee property taxpayers.

Mayor Barrett will argue that the city needs to create economic development in order to generate revenue. This is the reason why he amends TIDs to become donor TIDs. We agree.

However, TIDs are supposed to develop in areas of distress and in serious economic need, not to be squandered by building a tourist attracting downtown streetcar. And this is where the moral issue steps in.

Is the mayor using the power of the TID in a manner to build up areas of the city that are in dire need of economic support? With respect to the streetcar project, NO. The streetcar project is taking money from TID #56 and #49, new tax revenue streams from the taxing entities and putting the burden on Milwaukee property owners to continue paying property taxes so that instead property tax relief, Milwaukee taxpayers continue to be on the hook paying into the taxing entities without any break.

Does a mayor that shift’s newly created TID tax revenues away from paying into the taxing entities, and instead begins paying for a downtown streetcar that does not benefit the entire city and guarantees no real economic boon for our community a just mayor?

Spending newly created TID revenue to build a streetcar in order to complement the future fresh water “Camelot” along the lakefront and downtown the mayor wants, is not sound economic planning for the future of Milwaukee, nor a moral one for that matter.

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