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June 10, 2011
Rays stadium: Tampa dips one toe into the TIF pool
What is this, TIF week? At a budget workshop on Wednesday, Hillsborough County commissioner Ken Hagan suggested using property tax kickbacks to pay for roads and infrastructure for a new Tampa Bay Rays stadium in Tampa, if Tampa officials were thinking of building a stadium for the Rays, which they're totally not, doncha know. Since I'm tired of explaining how TIFs work, let's turn that over to the St. Petersburg Times, which actually did a stellar job of it today:
Here's how it works: In Tampa, officials have created eight community redevelopment districts, one each for downtown, the Channel District, Tampa Heights, Central Park, Drew Park, east Tampa and two for Ybor City.
When those districts were created, officials added up the value of all the assessed property inside their boundaries. As new development has taken place, the additional tax revenue that the growth in property value creates goes to improvements in the district.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said his thinking is: Don't interfere with St. Petersburg's relationship with the Rays, but try to keep the team in the region in the event of a "divorce."
Part of that effort, he said, could use tax-increment financing revenues to help pay for infrastructure improvements — roads, water and sewers — that a new stadium would need.
The problem with TIFs are legion: Mostly, that if the increase in tax revenues ends up being cannibalized from somewhere else nearby, or if tax revenues don't increase (it's happened), then taxpayers end up screwed. Or as subsidy expert Greg LeRoy memorably put it, the TIF district "eats the lunch of the general fund."
The Times, meanwhile, goes on to note that TIFs helped to build the San Francisco Giants' new stadium (yes, but only to the tune of about $10 million total), while the Tampa Tribune reports that "County Administrator Mike Merrill agreed that tax increment financing had been part of the package that built the new Yankee Stadium" — which isn't true at all. (The Yankees got property tax and construction sales tax exemptions, but that's a different thing.) But I guess when something's the hottest thing since sliced bread, reportorial common sense goes out the window.