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Commission votes to support TIF changes

At its March 22 meeting, the Washington County Commission voted to show its support on pending legislation in Nashville that would make some changes to how tax increment financing, or TIF, would work throughout the state.
The legislation would help prevent the “reappraisal surprise” the county received last year. Increased reappraisal values in the TIF redevelopment district in Johnson City meant the county’s financial commitment to the program increased by $200,000 for 2009.
County Attorney John Rambo said the change in the law would have the reappraisals “based on the taxes that are assessed” to avoid reappraisal jumps like last year.
Another part of the legislation required that upon payment of any delinquent taxes to the county, the county would in turn have to pay the interest back to the JCDA, in a prorated and “complicated” way, Rambo said. But because the county and JCDA had already reached an agreement to not track delinquent taxes, he is requesting that this part of the legislation be changed, which would exempt the county/JCDA deal.
Rambo said the legislation also includes a slight change in wording to include all counties in Tennessee under the legislation, as it was first worded to cover only Washington County. Rambo said the change will be helpful from a legal standpoint.
The county will benefit from the legislation, making the TIF program “more like what we thought we should have been getting in the first place,” Rambo said.
Both Johnson City and the JCDA support the legislation as well.
The commission also delayed the decision on a resolution that would have shown their opposition to pending legislation allowing some county school boards to have taxing authority.
By converting to a special school district, any local education agency could take over the taxing authority from the county commission, removing that entity’s involvement in the school system and its finances, according to the bill (HB3590).
The resolution opposing the bill states that if the bill passed in Nashville, it would create a “decentralized system of governance,” with two separate taxing bodies with competing interests.
The resolution, which the commission referred back to the Education Commitee, also urged the General Assembly to kill the bill because it would remove the system of checks and balances “created by having the local legislative bosy approval of school budgets and setting a tax rate for schools.”
The Tennessee School Boards Association does support the bill, which it says will help boards to be financially independent
Although in Nashville, the bill was amended to pertain only to Shelby County, County Attorney John Rambo said it could be changed to include all counties, and it was a safe move for the county commission to declare its opposition to the bill’s intention.
Commissioner Frank Bolus said the bill would take a large load off the commission and put the “onus” of taxing and planning on the school board, but said that he would be more cofortable delaying the decision until the commission received more information.
But Commissioner Sam Humphries said from observation, he can see that the legislation is a bad idea.
“I think if you look at Virginia, they have a similar situation and it’s about broke the state,” Humphries said. “You don’t want it.”
Also at the meeting, Commissioner C.B. Kinch said he wanted to clarify who decides how many commissioners are on the commission, as he has heard some mayoral candidates remark that they would like to cut down that number.
Currently, there are 25 commissioners, and the minimum amount the county must have is nine.
Rambo explained that once the current Census is completed, using the new information, the county commission has to respond with redistricting hin