By DOTTY NIST
County commissioners are expected to have information within 90 days in order to consider setting up one or more Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts to fund infrastructure needs south of the bay in Walton County.
District 5 Commissioner Cindy Meadows introduced the concept for discussion at the Jan. 14 Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) meeting at the South Walton Annex.
Not asking for a vote but just for direction for numbers and facts to be provided, Meadows brought up TIF districts as a way to “get some infrastructure completed” in south Walton County.
She identified a litany of infrastructure needs, among those the overlay and reconstruction of all of CR-30A, crosswalks, and over $3 million in drainage retrofits. The total price tag was an estimated $10 million.
Meadows explained that the process would be for the BCC to designate one or more TIF districts and designate a baseline tax for property within each district. Setting up a TIF district does not increase property taxes; instead, when property values for parcels in the TIF district rise above the baseline, all or a portion of the additional taxes paid as a result of the increased values is directed toward specific projects within that financing district.
District 3 Commissioner Bill Imfeld commented that within the past few years most tax increment financing had “been shelved” as a result of economic conditions. He was in favor of obtaining information from consultants on the possibility.
Meadows responded that the south end of the county is “growing again” and that the opportunity exists to “capture” increasing property values within the next couple of years. She agreed that expertise was needed to research the concept, as a decision on it would be a “complex financial decision.”
Speaking as a private citizen, community leader Bob Hudson spoke in support of pursuing the TIF possibility.
“I am of the opinion that the county has tremendous infrastructure needs,” Hudson said. He added that to attempt to meet those needs through ad valorem taxation would be “highly controversial.”
“Commissioner Meadows, I applaud you for the work you have done,” Hudson said.
Setting up a TIF to funds needs along the U.S. 331 corridor had also been discussed in recent months. Meadows asked if that would be a separate TIF district, if approved.
Mark Davis, county attorney, responded that it would be possible to set up any number of TIF districts in the county. Larry Jones, county administrator, commented that if TIF districts were approved for south Walton County, there would likely be several, as TIF districts are required to be tied to a specific area and specific projects in that immediate area.
It was determined that Government Services Group (GSG), a consulting company with which the county has a continuing services contract, would be asked to do research and provide information on the possibility. Jones agreed to enlist GSG to have preliminary information available for the BCC within 90 days in order to enable the commissioners to make a determination on whether to proceed in the direction of establishing one or more TIF districts.
By DOTTY NIST