Tax Increment Financing: Not Just for Developers

There is no doubt that TIF is a highly effective tool in catalyzing development projects that would otherwise be dead in the water (Check out this past article here for more background on TIF). We have worked with numerous communities and developers where TIF was the last piece of the puzzle to move a great project forward by making it a financially feasible venture. But, communities can also create TIF districts to generate a dedicated funding stream for infrastructure, parks and trails, business assistance programs, and other critical economic development projects.

Below, we take a brief look at four communities in Maine that have created TIF districts to illustrate the broad range of public investments possible through tax increment financing.

Gardiner, ME

The City of Gardiner created a 10-year downtown TIF District in 2003 to support revitalization efforts. A TIF District was needed to fill a funding gap for critical projects and programs. Among the projects targeted was the city’s waterfront boat launch and park expansion, pedestrian connections throughout the district (including new lighting), and utilities to assist new developments in the district.

Topsham, ME

In seeking to turn it its Main Street into “a place rather than a conduit for traffic” it implemented a 30-year, 326-acre TIF district to fund public improvements. Among these improvements were road construction and paving improvements including engineering and design costs. Other projects included expanded public transit by allocating TIF revenues toward the bus system operating and capital costs. A waterfront park and trail project was also included. Other improvements involved sewer infrastructure, streetscape improvements, and Wi-Fi services in the district. Altogether, the town identified $12.7 million in projects to be funded with future TIF revenues.

Yarmouth, ME

In July 2016, Yarmouth enacted a 30-year downtown TIF to help finance an estimated $39 million in identified investments. These investments include purchasing public safety building and equipment including a snowplow, fire truck, and emergency response equipment; sidewalk and parking improvements; underground utilities; road and natural gas infrastructure; trails and bike lanes; as well as storm and wastewater improvements. Other investments in the municipality, but outside the district itself, include economic development studies and operations, marketing the town, local agriculture, bus shelters, GIS capital improvements, broadband infrastructure, streetscape, energy projects, land acquisition, and more. The Downtown Plan also allows for Credit Enhancement Agreements to assist private developers.

Naples, ME

The town of Naples created a downtown and waterfront TIF district to enhance the local economy, promote tourism, and provide access to open space and outdoor recreation opportunities. Specific projects targeted with TIF funds include improving public boat launches, improving picnic areas, establishing a visitor information center, acquiring land to access open space, installing decorative lighting, establishing a façade improvement matching grant program, infrastructure improvements, undertaking planning studies, creating a revolving loan fund for economic development, credit enhancement agreements, and others.

The four communities above highlight how it is possible to utilize TIF to meet an impressive assortment of specific needs in targeted area such as a downtown, waterfront, or neighborhoods.

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