The state Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget signed off last week on extending the expiration of two tax increment financing, or TIF, districts in Monroe that would allow the city to incur debt to pay for infrastructure projects.
In the Interstate 20 TIF district, the city plans to incur some $23.5 million in bonded indebtedness to cover new and ongoing projects around the Pecanland Mall area. Meanwhile, the city also plans to incur $11 million in bonded indebtedness to pay for infrastructure projects in the Tower Drive-Armand Street Economic Development District, in spite of no specific plans on how to spend the money.
The Ouachita Citizen previously questioned city officials about how the money would be spent in the Tower-Armand TIF district but was only told a traffic study of some $250,000 might be sought. Instead of incurring $3 million for the Tower-Armand TIF district, city officials later agreed to incur $11 million instead.
When the city’s debt resolutions came before the joint budget committee last week, the committee’s chairman voiced a similar question. According to State Rep. Cameron Henry, who chairs the joint budget committee, the committee experienced “trouble” securing an answer about how the TIF district’s money would be spent.
“What we’re trying to get a hold of is the projects,” Henry said. “In essence, is this ever going to end? Meaning is there five more projects you are working on and then the TIF goes away? Or are there 10 more projects?”
Henry described the city’s debt resolutions as “vague.”
“If it’s designed to be perpetual, let’s accept that it’s perpetual,” Henry said.
“We can do that,” said Mayo, in reply.
Mayo attended the joint budget committee during the committee’s Aug. 13 meeting. Monroe attorney Wes Shafto, with the Boles & Shafto Law Firm, said the joint budget committee previously approved the creation of Monroe’s TIF districts in 1995. The request to the joint budget committee entailed an extension of the expiration.
The legislative instruments extending the life of the I-20 and Tower-Armand TIF districts were sponsored by state Rep. Katrina Jackson and state Sen. Francis Thompson.
“I think this is one of the best TIFs I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot of them,” said Thompson, D-Delhi. “This has made a huge difference in northeast Louisiana, and it will continue to make a huge difference in northeast Louisiana.”
Mayo said the two TIF districts led to expansive economic growth in each area. The city claims 169 businesses have opened in the two TIF districts since 2014.
“Because of the availability and our prudent use of the TIF funds, Monroe has experienced tremendous growth and economic development in the Tower-Armand and I-20 Economic Development Districts,” Mayo said
According to Jackson, she had not heard any complaints or opposition to extending the life of the two TIF districts.
“I want to commend the mayor and the city leaders,” said Jackson, D-Monroe. “The council is in support of this, and the chamber of commerce. There is not one person I have heard opposition from in our area.”
State Sens. Jim Fannin and Mike Walsworth, both Republicans, also voiced support for the two TIF districts.
“I think it’s evident that it’s created new tax dollars even though it has cost some dollars,” said Fannin, R-Jonesboro.
EDITOR'S NOTE: A previous version of this article stated Wes Shafto worked with the law firm Boles, Shafto & Leonard. The law firm is now known as Boles & Shafto.