The City of Marion’s Redevelopment Commission, the group assigned by law to oversee tax increment finance districts, has only met twice in two years, according to past and current members, and that has drawn the attention of some local elected officials.
The city’s mayor-appointed and council-appointed board has met in January the past two years to vote on officers, as mandated by state statute, but has not met at all the rest of the year in both 2016 and 2017.
While state law doesn’t require the commission to meet on a regular business, Marion’s lack of regular meetings stands in stark contrast to other Indiana cities and towns, big or small. Cities or towns, such as Wabash, Huntington, Anderson, Kokomo all hold regular monthly or bi-monthly commission meetings.
The lack of meetings comes at a time where the city’s TIF districts are being scrutinized by some city council members and at a time where City Controller Julie Flores, also the commission’s treasurer, has expressed concern over the city’s ability to meet its future TIF debt paid by the city’s “spider” TIF that encompasses more than 900 properties.
According to the commission’s 2016 report obtained by the Chronicle-Tribune, the city’s TIF districts took in nearly $1 million less than it paid out for debt, though the fund’s total disbursements includes the nearly $700,000 paid to General Motors in late payments. The city still owes GM $326,930 in TIF money this year.
Commissions are given many responsibilities under state law, including creating and handling tax increment financing districts, buying and selling of property in need of redevelopment, conducting studies and reports as to why areas are in need of redevelopment and ways to promote development in those areas, among others.
As managers of the city’s TIF districts, the commission is also given the power to monitor each district and work with the city’s financial advisor on neutralization forms each year.
None of that has happened in Marion. In the past year a half, Umbaugh and Associates, the city’s financial advisers, have filled out the neutralization forms and even made major changes to the TIF districts without any oversight or input from the full commission.
The lack of action surprised some council members.
“I think we are all taken aback,” Council President Jim Brunner said.
Last month Brunner asked Commission President Steve Smithley why the board hadn’t met, and Smithley said he didn’t think the commission had anything to meet about.
Now, however, Smithley said Saturday the board will meet this week, either Tuesday or Wednesday, to discuss city properties that will graduate from its Blight Elimination Program, TIF and to go over for the first time the commission’s 2016 report that was turned in to the state back in April.
“I don’t like not being in the know,” Smithley said.
Smithley said he’s going to have open discussion among board members regarding neutralization forms, as well as discuss ideas on selling some of the land left after the city has torn down blighted homes that the Redevelopment Commission now owns.
When asked if the commission will have regular meetings, Smithley said that it would rely on what the majority of board members want to do.