Monitoring business incentives makes sense

May 16, 2014 

You know what they say about the best laid plans. As everyone can attest, things don't always work out as planned. That's also the case for new or expanding businesses.

Belleville is finally acknowledging this truth and will regularly monitor whether businesses that receive tax incentives are holding up their end of the development agreements. That's good news for taxpayers, who want to ensure their money gets used effectively.

Mayor Mark Eckert asks: How do you measure success? He gives the example of a business that said it would create five jobs but instead creates just two, and expresses his reluctance to take such a business to court to enforce the agreement.

We hope such a situation could be settled out of court, but the city needs to hold businesses accountable when they break their promises. If this hypothetical business had said from the start that it would create just two jobs, would the city have given it the same incentives? Probably not.

We need to point out that the business incentives are just a fraction of the TIF dollars flowing through the city coffers.

From 2008 to the present, the city gave out an estimated $3.7 million in incentives, part of which was funded by TIF.

That's a fraction of the TIF dollars collected in the same period. In the 2013 tax year, the city alone collected $3 million in property taxes for TIF over and above the $7 million it requested to help fund city operations. The city's annual treasurer's report for the fiscal year that ended in April 2013 lists TIF revenue of $14.29 million.

In addition to incentives, the city spends TIF on a variety of items such as roads, sidewalks, the sewer plant and public safety.

It's great that the city is going to monitor the business agreements. It would be a bonus if it gave the public an easy-to-understand accounting of all TIF money once a year. every year.

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