At the mayoral candidate debate on Tuesday, Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert complained about the many myths surrounding tax increment financing districts, or TIFs.
TIF is complicated and at times misunderstood, but some of these myths are promoted by the city.
For instance, Eckert praised Green Mount Commons and Belleville Crossing, two project-specific TIFs that create jobs and generate sales tax dollars. But he didn't discuss TIF 3, a massive slush fund that includes more than half the city. Since 1986 it has been raking in property tax dollars without a specific project-driven purpose. It was supposed to expire in 2009, but the City Council extended it 12 more years.
TIF projects have to be judged on their individual merit. Plans to use TIF to restore the former, vacant downtown YMCA as the headquarters of an area business are welcome. But using TIF to buy a building that housed a furniture store in west Belleville just to tear it down was a poor choice by the City Council.
Candidate Joe Hayden suggests decertifying some of the city's TIFs early so the city has a broader tax base available to help fund general city operations. Whoever is elected mayor, that's an idea worth pursuing.