Twp. board makes DDA opt-out decision

FLINT TWP. — In a close 4-3 vote, the township board decided not to opt out of its own proposed Downtown Development Authority and held the first reading of an ordinance to create the DDA.

Faced with a Feb. 18 deadline for opting out of participation in a tax increment financing district (TIF) for the plan, the board held a special meeting last week to discuss if it should exempt its millages for public safety, road and fire equipment. There was concern about public perception that the DDA would be taking away money that voters approved specifically for those millages.

Under a TIF plan, the DDA can “capture” millage from the growth in property values resulting from economic development in the DDA district.

The board had three options to protect the aforementioned millages, said Doug Pigott, a planner with Rowe Professional Services who is assisting with creating the DDA. One would be to simply opt out and not capture from those three millage funds.

A second option would be to establish in the DDA bylaws that a percentage (or none) of the tax growth would be captured from the road, fire equipment and public safety millages.

The third option would be to set up a method of paying back money collected from the millages to be used for services provided within the DDA district.

The downside of opting out completely could be that is that it sends a negative message to other taxing entities – such as Genesee County – which did not choose to opt out of the DDA plan, Piggott said. There could be repercussions of other taxing bodies deciding to opt-out of two other proposals to create a Corridor Improvement Authority for Bristol Road and Beecher Roads. The CIA’s are being created for similar economic development reasons as the DDA but are separate because they are outside of the boundaries of the DDA district which must be contiguous. The optout deadline for the CIAs is still pending.

Treasurer Lisa Anderson asked questions about liability of the township board and appointed DDA board and also voiced concern about capturing from the millage. She said she thought it would send a good message to voters when the Public Safety Millage comes up for renewal in 2023 that their tax dollars were protected.

After listening to Piggott’s explanation, at least two board members changed their minds about voting to opt out. Trustees Tom Klee and Frank Kasle both said they came to the meeting with the intention of voting to opt out.

“I did not realize the fact that we might lose dollars in other areas,” Klee said. “The county could say if you opt out, so shall we. I don’t want any dollars taken from police and fire (but) I don’t want to take the chance of losing county dollars.”

He voiced support for one of the other two options Piggott mentioned.

Kasle also said he changed his mind after hearing about alternate options to opting out. The purpose of the DDA capturing tax growth is to improve township property, he said. “If we take out all of the biggest percent from the amount that could be spent, we are going to hurt ourselves. In the long term, the more we receive that we can spend on the police and fire departments.”

Piggott said it could take many years before enough money builds up through tax capture to take on large development projects. The DDA project plan will cover 20 to 30 years.

The police and fire chief both said they could see both sides of the issue but preferred opting out the public safety millage.

Township Supervisor Karyn Miller, pointed out that a previous Central Development Business Authority, despite some image problems when it ended, was responsible for numerous positive township improvements including Dutcher Road and the service access drives along busy Miller Road.

Miller, Kasle, Klee and Township Clerk Kathy Funk voted against opting out the millages. Anderson and trustees Carol Pfaff-Dahl and Barb Vert voted in favor of opting out.

The DDA ordinance will come up for second reading and adoption at the township board’s March 5 meeting.

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