On March 5, 2023

Concerned about TIF

Dear Editor,

I’ve owned property in Killington for 15+ years, and I want Killington to be successful for a long time to come. I need to say that every growing community that I’ve lived in and worked with over the past 20 years struggles to cover the cost of new services associated with growth/development with collected taxes. More development means increased staffing at the fire department, police department, public works department, town hall, etc., and although tax base does increase with new development, the increase in required services typically exceeds any new revenue. In fact I’ve seen many town departments so bold, that they refuse to approve a project without “building a new police station” or “adding a new firetruck and company” or “a new ambulance and staff” because “safety comes first,” which are costs that should supposedly be covered by new taxes, but aren’t. Unfortunately, increased tax base usually doesn’t make more money available as the cost of additional services outweighs any new tax benefit.

This is further complicated by the fact that the majority of the new taxes for the village would be earmarked to pay the TIF loan, and cannot be used for other Town services with needs that expand as the tax base expands.

As a civil engineer, I do this kind of planning, permitting, and design for a living. I work for developers like these. I’ve seen enough economic impact reports to know they’re not worth the paper they’re written on (and some of those I’ve written). PUDs, subdivisions, TIFs…no one ever thinks things will go awry, and they always think the protections they have in place are enough to come to a satisfactory outcome, but life doesn’t always work out as planned. And when it doesn’t, there’s only the tax base to foot the bill. The “build it and they will come” philosophy isn’t a good municipal economic growth tool and clearly didn’t work with the golf course. I’m skeptical at the roots of it all that this proposal is really that different. Why should I take on that risk – no matter the perceived potential impact. What happens when the developer goes belly up, and the Town has to take the land, but no one wants to buy it because the tax assessments are too high? What happens if the Town has to sit on those properties for years? Decades? Who covers the shortfalls in those instances?

Traffic studies recommended road improvements for the traffic associated with the new village, and the new village needs water. If there isn’t a village both these needs go way down, though they don’t disappear completely. How many properties outside the village actually need water and what is that daily demand? What would a water system that just served those needs cost? Does Killington Road really need a redesign? And sidewalks to Route 4? Is this something we NEED? There are other sources of money available through federal programs including EPA grants and forgiveness loans for water, wastewater, and stormwater and accessibility improvements to fix issues just like these. With the TIF I feel the Town is asking for too much and are pushing for the needs of the village developer more than the needs of the Town. The Town is seeking is WAY more than it needs, basically to serve the few. The Town is more than the access road. Mountain Green Condominiums is an existing town development looking at $32M in major repairs and could use the assistance of the Town. How about we throw that into the TIF too? The improvements should raise property values, no? I’m sure the new taxes will cover the costs to the Town (he said with an eye roll).

Everyone considering this TIF should do so with caution. Study after study shows that TIFs routinely do not result in increased economic development. And to quote from one study, “…The best policy for a city in regards to TIF districts is to avoid using them all together.” (Americansforprosperity.org/wp-c … FAQ-v1.pdf).

Very concerned,

Chris Keenan

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