Excuse us while we beat this drum: Tax increment financing has no place in residential development.
But that's precisely the plan pitched in Riverdale. There, developers hope to leverage the power of TIF to fund a subdivision that would, ultimately, increase enrollment at Pleasant Valley Community School District while siphoning off precious resources from district coffers.
Look, TIF isn't, in and of itself, an unreasonable tool for economic development in blighted areas. Those last words are key here: economic development in blighted areas.
TIFs are intended reinvigorate business in run-down neighborhoods, thereby boosting residential taxes through job creation. The Riverdale proposal, backed by city officials, end-runs this key component and goes straight to the housing.
Unsurprisingly, Pleasant Valley district officials rejected the idea on its face. Scott County supervisors should follow suit and oppose this proposal at every turn. A concerted, unified campaign could stop this short-sighted proposal in its tracks.
Here's a quick and dirty about TIF: It reroutes tax revenue, generated through increased property value due to a development, to solely the zone where the construction occurred. Cash that would otherwise flow to schools or county coffers is, instead, used to build roads and sidewalks. Ultimately, the cash benefits the developer.
It's the tax base, as a whole, the ends up picking up the slack, as schools, in particular, grapple with boosts in enrollment.
In this instance, the incentive appears needless and Riverdale officials should do everyone a favor and back away from the effort. The housing market in and around Bettendorf is strong. New builds and housing tracts continue expanding the fringes of Davenport. In almost all instances, contractors and developers assume the risk. They sell the houses. They play by established rules and don't expect a taxpayer-subsidized advantage.
Everyone gets their share, taxpayers included.
There's a strong argument to be made for the economic boost the Riverdale project would add to the community. The City Council's support is understandable until one looks at the issue from 30,000 feet.
This is yet another case in support of statewide legislation that would give veto authority to all governmental bodies potentially affected by a proposed TIF. The power of consultation is, simply, not good enough. It's a senseless oversight that undercuts elected officials' ability to scuttle bad deals that do little for their constituents.
Market forces suggest that the tract in question would get subdivided with or without taxpayer support. In short, the market forces should determine whether the development in Riverdale sinks or swims. Nor should the school district be asked to saddle the cost.
On a grand scale, TIFs are complicated, contentious vehicles of development. In Illinois, TIFs have been widely overused. Moline has, too often, tapped TIF in the past few decades to the detriment of its schools and city budgets. Chicago's ungainly TIF map has raised the ire of the governor's office, probably rightly so.
But TIF abuse isn't so widespread in Scott County. That's because the county board has applied judicious, conservative skepticism to TIF applications. Supervisors have scrutinized TIFs that would consume farm land. They've criticized projects that would suck tax dollars from school districts. And they've generally been less than hospitable to TIF proposals for residential developments. If nothing else, they've waged a campaign from the bully pulpit against most bad deals.
All of those standards should apply in Riverdale Tuesday when the TIF's applicants and city officials come seeking the county's support.
On its own, the proposed development could benefit its developers and Riverdale alike. But there's simply no justification for expecting Pleasant Valley School District or Scott County to cover its costs.