The Poynette Village Board was close to having a full house for their July 25 meeting, starting with a special session to go over terms and possibilities of a multimillion dollar Tax Increment District development project.
Village Administrator Craig Malin presented, thanking visitors for coming to his “TID talk.” Municipal development projects using Tax Increment Financing (TIF) for improvement surrounding a TID has been a divisive topic at times in municipalities including villages and major cities. Malin opted to commit his first few slides to some frequent questions, first being: “q: will my taxes go up? a: no (in the end they should go down).”
Malin went on to explain that TIF is a development tool, and a TID is the specific are to be developed, in the case of Poynette, the area of northwest Poynette around West Ridge Trail.
He pointed to his past experience in administration and municipal development, putting together such projects in Vernon Hills, Illinois, Davenport, Iowa, and Seaside City, California, where he resigned in June of last year to move to Poynette.
“It’s a good piece of land and it has needed a developer that can see its possibilities and I think that’s what we have,” said Malin in a later interview. “And the ability to grow the village’s tax base by over $100 million isn’t something that comes by every day, so we should be thoughtful, creative, and intelligent about creating opportunities.”
Although one thing may presumably lead to another, Malin explained that the questions for the community of the TIF and the TID are separate. One is a plan for development, while the other would arrive as a specific project proposal.
As it is currently being imagined, the development would be a transformative change for the Village of Poynette, creating housing for roughly 1,000 new residents to a village of 2,590, according to 2020 Census results.
When residents are looking for resources for civic improvements and community programs, Malin argues that the best way to slice a pie is to get more pie.
Through TIF, as property value increases with new development, funds that would otherwise go toward increasing property taxes paid by the developer, are directed toward local development, continuing for a set number of years until the TIF expires and the district becomes just another local tax parcel, drawing revenue at the new higher rate.
In his presentation, Malin showed a regional map with TIDs marked out, showing one in almost every surrounding community: Portage, DeForest, Windsor, Dane, Arlington, Lodi, Waunakee, and others.
Village Board President Diana Kaschinske said that she looks at it as a learning process for all those involved.
“To us it is a tool that we have never used that has been out there,” said Kaschinske. “We’re learning that we have a tool that we can use, which is very important and it will help with bringing businesses to town and also it will help the tax base.”
A factor making the program more palatable, according to Kaschinske, is that they are able to say that it will be phased in and is not a matter of 1,000 people showing up in one day.
Kaschinske readily admits that for all the benefits of Poynette, such as a great school district, they do not have as much to offer in the way of services as other municipalities, and she would like to see Poynette attractive for young families who want to put their kids in karate classes, art club, and other activities that would be more available with TIF-based resources.
“If we stay where we are right now…I just want you to know we still have roads to fix, we still have services to provide, we still have the EMS and fire department, and all those costs are escalating because that’s the way the world works,” said Kaschinske. “So if we don’t try to increase revenue with the opportunity that is in front of us, we’re going to have more taxes.”
Through his career, Malin says that he has watched communities on the edges of bigger cities looking and the impending collision of rapid change and local identity.
“I would go there and help them out, and say, ‘This development wave is coming in your direction and either you figure out how to retain the charm of your rural community or you’re going to have a lot of beige-looking stuff and you’re going to look just like everybody else,” said Malin, “and so I have a real sensitivity of how to keep charming small towns charming.”
Part of that has been maintaining standards on development projects, such as in Illinois, where Malin said administrators told a number of developers with proposals to keep moving on down the road until they found one that they felt worthy of their town.
In Poynette, Malin was expecting a process of stitching together a number of smaller development projects, but was surprised when a significant proposal came back from Randy Alexander with Torque Companies.
After Malin’s presentation, during the Village Board meeting, board members were given a brief presentation from Ehlers Public Finance Advisors, with an estimate of results from creation of a TID. The estimate came in at potentially $43.8 million in new tax revenue for the village.
“The thing that I was really trying to hammer home is that we’re not just doing this for the developer. We want to turn community investment into community improvement,” said Malin. “I’m not the one who makes decisions. I’m the one that presents possibilities and minimizes liabilities.”
Kaschinske says that she started in the process with a natural skepticism of a proposal being “too good to be true,” but with discussions and follow-up questions has, with other members of the board, come to thinking it may just be a good idea.
“Until this doesn’t look like it is going to be a good venture, we’re going to move forward,” said Kaschinske. “When the red flags come, we’ll look at them and may have to redirect. But everybody at the meeting seemed to be for it.”
The board voted unanimously to move forward with the project, which is still a number of steps from a final plan. The village will hold a meeting of the Joint Review Board on Aug. 16, while the Plan Commission will hold a public hearing on the project plan and the proposed TID boundaries.
During the public comments portion of the village board meeting two residents spoke supporting the TID plan, Luke Walz, representing the Poynette Chamber of Commerce and other local organizations, as well as former Columbia County Board supervisor Andy Ross.
“Due diligence is something you’ll hear a lot,” said Ross of the process before the board and residents. “The village is going to change and you need to get out ahead of it.”