District will help development

Published 2:46 pm Tuesday, July 8, 2008

City leaders have approved a special district that will make economic development easier.

The Columbiana City Council approved a proposal July 1 to start a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District.

Mayor Allan Lowe said TIF districts exist to rejuvenate blighted areas.

“This is a way the Alabama Legislature made for cities to help with economic development,” said Lowe.

TIFs work by capping the amount of money the state receives in property tax from businesses within the district.

As the property increases in value, the city will receive the difference in tax revenue for no more than 30 years.

“Simply put, the TIF district will allow us to keep the tax dollars that would go to the state government,” said Lowe.

At least 50 percent of the properties within the district have to be blighted.

However, Lowe said that label isn’t as ominous as it sounds.

“The property has to be blighted, but that’s a very loose term in the state,” said Lowe. “It does mean that the property is vacant or abandoned, but it can also mean that it hasn’t reached its full potential.”

The city will hire the Birmingham Regional Commission of Greater Birmingham to research and establish the district.

Ray Morris with the commission said TIF districts can have a huge impact on a city’s economic vitality.

“We’ll have to decided what kind of projects we want to see done,” said Morris, who lives outside Columbiana. “We’ll have to look at where we want to reinvest these funds.”

Morris said the commission’s previous TIF projects have met with much success, particular in Bessemmer along Academy Drive.

“That area has just taken off,” said Morris.

The total cost of the project is $20,000, paid in four installments throughout the process.

Lowe said the regional commission would help the city get the biggest bang for its buck.

“We want the maximum amount of property possible to be included in the district,” said Lowe.

The commission will also make a project plan for the TIF district.

The plan will include a list of any proposed public works or improvements within the district, along with estimated project costs.

At least two public hearings will be held about the district in coming weeks, Morris said.