The president of Indianapolis-based KSM Location Advisors says, when used correctly, Tax Increment Financing Districts can be "game-changing" tools for local governments. Katie Culp is responding to a study from Ball State University’s Center for Business and Economic Research suggesting TIFs are overused and not necessarily creating new investment. Culp calls TIFs a "critically important" tool for local government, which she says often don’t have many other options for economic development incentives.
The CBER report suggests TIF Districts capture up to $320 million each year in funding from Indiana communities. Director Mike Hicks says the districts pull funding that could be used elsewhere, such as schools. However, Culp says TIFs are often used in areas that already have more stable tax bases.
Culp acknowledges that there have been TIFs in Indiana that have turned out to be "awful," but says many have been extremely effective as well. She specifically cites their use in Carmel and the revitalization of downtown Indianapolis. Culp likens calling TIFs inherently good or bad is "like passing judgment on a chisel," saying it can be used to make beautiful art or sit gathering dust.
Among her biggest concerns, Culp says, is that newly-elected officials will "absorb the message that TIF is bad." She says, while TIF Districts are not the answer for every deal, education and constructive criticism can boost the tool’s effectiveness.
You can connect to the full report, which includes a county-by-county breakdown, by clicking here.
Culp says she is especially concerned about newly-elected officials’ perceptions of TIFs.