Coming on the heels of a national article by In These Times magazine about Amazon which Local 205 participated in, union officials delivered a statement to the Metro Council’s TIF (Tax Increment Financing) Study Committee on March 6. The union’s statement is on YouTube and was read by SEIU’s political director Jason Freeman – here it is in its entirety:
When it comes to Tax Increment Financing in Davidson County moving forward, we have a few things you should consider.
First, TIF was originally conceived as a way to entice development in ‘blighted areas.’ The idea was to use the incentive to build parks/green space, sidewalks or other public goods that would make an area more desirable for developers. In Nashville, we generally seem to use TIF to subsidize construction loans. The city should focus on how to deliver public goods with TIF, not build a few extra floors on a high-rise that is already being built.
Second, in Nashville TIF has been used on a project-by-project basis, meaning the increment only comes from the single property. There was an effort to change this process to a large district which freezes property tax revenue from say a 30 square mile area for 30 years. This also creates a silo of funding that feels a bit like an end run around the capital improvement budget for projects only in that area.
That becomes especially concerning when talking about replicating many of those districts around the city. The project-by-project model puts less of our future revenue at risk and gives the Council better oversight. TIF projects should, whenever possible, require approval by the council. Council should not give away it’s oversight on 30 years of property tax revenue for large sections of the city under any circumstance.
Third, the city of Nashville has a chronically underfunded school system whose scarce resources have been strained by Tax Increment Financing. Metro Schools is required to receive 40% of all the property tax revenue that comes into the city and until our investment in education matches our investment in tourism, we should not promise away one dollar of future revenue that is allocated for schools. If we continue to use TIF, it should only apply to the remaining increment after the schools get their funds.
Finally, at the current moment, the property tax revenues are at an arbitrarily low amount. This is a result of Council adopting the lowest property tax rate in the history of consolidated government. Promising away future property tax revenue from the current baseline would be irresponsible. The city is continuing to grow at a rapid pace, bringing into the question the need for these types of incentives in the first place, but our infrastructure is not growing. Needed investments in our city are not being made and we would argue that the focus of this council should be on fixing the current revenue shortage before promising any future revenues away. There is currently a voluntary freeze on Tax Increment Financing agreements until this committee makes its recommendations. This freeze should continue, and no Tax Increment Financing agreement should be considered until the council and the mayor’s office have restored the property tax rate to a normal level.
Thank you for your work and for taking input from the public.