Public forum Monday in Clarksburg hopes to educate public on TIF districts

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — A public forum scheduled for Monday evening will provide a chance for those interested to educate themselves on Tax Increment Financing Districts.

The event was organized by the North Central West Virginia Chapter of Democracy for America after members noticed TIF District driving economic development in some areas without much public knowledge about them.

“We felt that introducing that to the public and having Senator Bob Beach and Senator Mike Romano, who have been instrumental in TIF Districts, would be a good opportunity for people not only to get educated on what TIF Districts are, but also to ask questions,” Wayne Worth with the organization said.

TIF Districts have been in existence around the country for some time, but are a relatively new concept in the Mountain State.

“They came into play back in the early 2000s, I believe at the end of the Wise administration, and it just paralleled similar legislation that was going on in other states at the time,” Senator Beach (D- Monongalia, 13) said. “It allows communities to take advantage of a unique opportunity to develop properties in and around your county or state, whatever it may be.”

Beach said there are two types of TIF Districts currently in West Virginia, those which utilize tax money from real property and those which utilize money from the retail sales tax from businesses within the district.

“On real estate property, it freezes the taxes that are being collected there,” he explained. “A project moves in, is developed and that project, those bonds that are sold to construct this project, those monies that are captured after the freeze, above the freeze is actually applied to pay down the bond debt. And it works similar for the retail sales as well.”

TIF Districts have been used for different purposes in West Virginia.

In Beach’s district, the new ballpark utilized by West Virginia University and the new NY-Penn League West Virginia Black Bears was built this way.

“The TIF District played a huge part in making that happen,” he said. “All the pieces came together at the right time and the right place. We’re very fortunate to have the ballpark here with us right now.”

Elsewhere, business are locating their headquarters in these districts when they would not have otherwise.

TIF Districts have not come without criticism. Questions for detractors include why they are popping up more frequently in areas that are already seeing success with economic development and less frequently in areas that need the most assistance and is the gamble of anticipating property value or retail value increase within the district the best economic decision to make with tax money.

Worth and Beach hope those with concerns leave with their questions answered.

Monday’s forum is scheduled to begin with a “Meet and Greet” session at 5:30 p.m., the presentation will being at 6 and the question and answer segment is slated to last one hour at the Gaston Caperton Center in Clarksburg.