Shawano considers changes to TIF district plans

Fifth district among options

Shawano officials are exploring ways they could use some of the revenue from the city’s Tax Incremental Finance (TIF) districts to give an additional boost to economic development in those areas.

TIF districts are areas where municipalities invest in infrastructure, such as sewer and water, to attract development where it might not otherwise occur, or to make improvements, such as eliminating blight.

Whatever increase in tax revenue that results from development in those districts goes to paying back the debt the municipality incurred from making improvements to the district.

However, TIF revenue can also be used for administrative costs and other TIF-related expenses, as well as incentives and other tools for promoting development.

“Our intention is to be able to utilize the TIFs and the revenue they generate for improving economic opportunities in those areas,” City Administrator Brian Knapp said.

Those efforts could also help spur economic development citywide, he said.

Shawano has four active TIF districts: The Raasch Industrial Park; a residential area targeted for blight elimination from Main Street east to Lincoln street and Zingler Avenue south to Pearl Avenue; a downtown TIF district running from the Main Street bridge south to Sunset Avenue; and the Bay Lakes Industrial Park.

Knapp said consideration is being given to a fifth TIF district that could encompass Green Bay Street. Though it would technically be a “blight elimination district” under rules governing TIF districts, Knapp said he prefers to think of it as a redevelopment district.

“We’re studying it to see if it makes financial sense,” Knapp said.

Other taxing entities — including Shawano County, the Shawano School District and Northeast Wisconsin Technical College — would have to approve of the idea, because they wouldn’t share in any additional revenue from new development in the district until the improvements are paid off.

The Common Council on Wednesday got an update on how their TIF districts are performing from Brian Zellers of Vierbicher Associates of Madison, which recently completed an audit.

All four of the TIF districts are in good financial condition, according to Zellers.

The Raasch Industrial Park is due to be paid off by September 2019, but could be closed early if no additional funds are invested in that district, Zellers said.

The district is generating $290,000 a year in revenue, he said. The residential TIF district is generating $76,000, the downtown district is generating $280,000, and the Bay Lakes district is generating $130,000.

Zellers recommended making amendments to each of the last three TIF districts to make additional improvements and add project costs, such as staffing and development incentives.

Zellers said the city might also want to consider using TIF district funds to promote affordable housing and fund the creation of a Redevelopment Authority to oversee the districts.

The city has a Redevelopment Authority, created about the time the downtown TIF district was established, but it hasn’t met in several years. The city directory lists a Redevelopment Authority but no members.

Any proposed changes to the TIF district plans will go before a Joint Review Board made up of representatives of the city and the other taxing entities later this month.

The Plan Commission will meet to discuss potential TIF district amendments Oct. 2; the proposed amendments go to the Common Council on Oct. 9.

The Joint Review Board will then give the amendments another review in late October.