Belleville city leaders deserve credit for finally using tax increment financing funds for their intended purpose: fixing blight.
City leaders voted Monday night for a $235,000 incentive from TIF funds to remove the blighted Rob Nora and Forest Hills apartment buildings on West Main Street. Developer Adam Hill, whose recent success includes the old Mad Pricer strip mall nearby, will spend $2.65 million replacing the apartments with single-family homes and villas.
The apartments were literally falling down, with a ceiling landing on one elderly resident’s bed. Police were out at the apartments so often they nearly needed occupancy permits.
So using tax dollars to fix the bad is good. Of course, we got to this moment after 31 years and $171 million being pumped into the slush fund that is TIF 3.
That district blankets much of the city and creates annual sticker shock when property tax bills arrive. It should have gone away in 2009, but city leaders extended it to 2021 and are fretting about its imminent demise.
No more police cars. No more City Hall renovations. City leaders are trying to figure out how to replace that money.
Simple answer is: Don’t.
If schools get the full amount they should from property taxes, if the city taxes for what it needs, the math should work in property taxpayers’ favor and at a minimum be more transparent. City leaders don’t get to play favorites, and businesses will rise and fall on their own merits and finances rather than giving the shiny new guy a bonus to come compete with the old reliable merchant.
And blighted would really mean blighted. It would no longer mean, “We’ve got this cornfield that would be a dandy big-box store.”