A citizen’s view on the recent TIF vote

Published 7:00 am Friday, August 14, 2015

I am a citizen of the city of Picayune and I would like to talk about an item recently approved for the use of taxpayers’ funds. On July 6th the Pearl River County Supervisors (4 of 5) and on July 7th Picayune’s City Council (5 of 6) voted “yes” to a Tax Increment Financing program for a development within the city limits.

I used to work for an engineering firm in Jackson Mississippi in which we designed and built multiple residential and commercial subdivisions. In this, the developer was obligated to build the road, water, sewer, and drainage systems per the specifications approved by the city and/or county due to the fact that these systems were to be turned over to the city or county in which they will have to maintain from then on. These developments were on private land and the infrastructure was totally paid for by the developer. Afterwards, the developer would make his/her money by selling the commercial or residential lots for a profit because now the area is a developed accessible property to the public, therefore the property value is higher.

This is American commercialism that has nothing to do with the government. Why? Because these now developed lots may sell for profit to the developer or they may not. It is a risk to a developer whether this property will flourish. If a property owner/developer does not have the funds to do this, he/she will obtain investors to assist in the building of the infrastructure. At no time have I ever heard of taxpayers funding any of these private ventures.

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The Board of Supervisors and City Council approved a TIF program to develop commercial and residential property for a private landowner. They have approved to use increases in sales and ad valorem taxes to reimburse the developer for at least half of his expense in the construction of infrastructure, such the road, water, sewer, and drainage systems. I cannot understand this because I did not believe that the government was into using tax dollars for the advancement of private individual’s profit or into taking risks whether or not developed land will prosper, which will be the only way that the taxpayers will be reimbursed. If this development does not take off, does anyone believe that this $6.5 million will not have to be paid off? I also don’t understand that if this is such an incredible venture, then why doesn’t the developer have investors lining up around the corner? They stated that this development will increase tax income (which it will), but the city and county will still get these tax increases if the developer has to pay for his improvements himself. I’m not certain, but I heard that this $6.5 million TIF will take 15 years to pay off before the taxes even come into effect to make a profit for the city and county and that is if the commercial properties actually sell and develop soon.

I have read the paperwork on TIF plan and nowhere do I find that this implementation is to be used for developing bare land of a private landowner in order to create commercial lots for him to sell for profit; much less residential lots which is encompassed in this 276 acre development. Now, in the City Council meeting on July 7th, the speaker for the developer stated that this will not include residential lots. I would like the city and county to get this in writing because if it is not, then why include all 276 acres in this TIF? Why not just the commercial acreage?

See part two in next week’s edition for the continuation of this letter to the editor

By Ray Snapp