To John (J.B.) Johnson ("Thankful to live in Hancock County," Jan. 3) and to those of you who do not understand tax increment financing, or TIF, allow me to present a simple explanation:
Let's say you are a farmer wanting to obtain more land. You have an uncle who is worth millions. The uncle comes to you and says, "Nephew, if you purchase this 160-acre piece of land over time, I will be willing to make the payments for you, and in the end, you will own the land without having to place your own personal money into the project." Who wouldn't take up an offer such as this, especially when you know the uncle has always been honorable?
With TIF, a large project (such as windmills) comes to a county. Windmills pay a huge amount of property taxes, taxes that go to all taxing bodies within that district. A county has to have debt, certain kinds of debt, in order to utilize TIF. So the counties incur debt by improving roads and bridges and then by utilizing TIF, divert the property tax monies from the other taxing bodies to the county to pay for the debt. The state back-fills the school district 87.5 percent of the lost revenue, so there is virtually no lost revenue to the schools. Due to the back-fill, the county receives more than 140 percent of the money that would be generated from the windmill property taxes if those taxes were not TIFed. The county is the big beneficiary.
Yes, Mr. Johnson, Winnebago and Mitchell counties have debt. But this debt is not being paid for by the rest of the property taxpayers of the county. Instead, those taxpayers are benefiting by improvements made with TIF, thus holding down property taxes that otherwise would need to be raised to pay for the necessary repairs to our crumbling roads and bridges.
As a Mitchell County Supervisor, I am proud to understand how to stretch the property tax dollars to benefit all taxpayers of the county, a win-win for everyone.
Stan Walk, St. Ansgar