Your Opinion: Special taxing districts require scrutiny

Dear Editor:

I would lke to shine a flashlight of public scrutiny into a black box known as Stoneridge Transportation Development District (Stoneridge TDD) and other taxing entities like it. Let’s turn on our flashlight and take a look around inside. Our city government seems obsessed with creating these privately owned tax districts so we should get familiar with them. It’s your money.

Quite simply a Transportation Development District (TDD) is a political subdivision which is privately owned and has the power to cause every store in the TDD to charge you and extra 1 percent sales tax for their private benefit. The state collects the sales tax, but hands it right back to the developer of the TDD. If these are kept small and are audited frequently they are not so bad, since they encourage development.

So far, so good.

The problems start when these grow in size and are not properly audited by the city. The Stoneridge TDD started as 22 acres but has now grown to 112 acres and they ain’t done yet. These TDDs are allowed to grow in size like Godzilla without public notice or input once they are established. This is just too big for a city of our small size. A 112-acre area (it’s the Capital Quarry area mostly owned by the Farmer Company) represents a major area right in the middle of our city. Development in our city should be overseen by the city government, not private developers, so that the whole city ties together in a uniform way.

The other problem is that the city does not do an adequate job of auditing the tax receipts that the TDD brings in. A 2011 audit by the state auditor found significant problems in the tax accounting by Stoneridge TDD. These were apparently corrected but our city did not chose to set up an audit system that would detect future problems with the TDD or any taxing entity.

The City Council seems preoccupied with creating more TDDs, CIDs and TIFs and let the chips fall where they may.

Before the City Council creates another Tax Increment Financing District out at Capital Mall (owned by Farmer Company) a set of standardized accounting procedures should be set up to keep a tight rein on where the tax money is spent and also let the public through their city government control the growth of these taxing subdivisions. Taxing entities should never be privately owned.

Call your councilman and demand public notice and auditing for TDDs, CIDs and TIFs. No Capital Mall TIF until this is done.