The North Dakota Policy Council has a video on YouTube that explains the mechanics of tax increment financing (TIF) districts and the public policy problems associated with TIF.
The video is presented in three sections. The material in the first section is different from the way TIF districts work in Kansas, but the other two sections are very similar to the way the law works in Kansas.
At the start of part 3 (“Problems with TIFs”) the narrator states the problem succinctly: “Tax increment financing negatively affects everybody’s property tax bill by taking the tax revenue from increased taxable valuations on the properties in the TIF areas and putting that into TIF accounts.”
She then presents an illustration showing how the property taxes for non-TIF properties have to rise to make up for the fact that taxes from TIF properties do not go towards paying for city, county, or school district services. While Wichita doesn’t use the term “TIF accounts” as used in this video, the economic effect is the same.
The video also mentions politically-favored developers being the beneficiaries of TIF districts, specifically mentioning “a friend of the city who might own property that is struggling.” I wonder: is the North Dakota Policy Council aware of the situation in Wichita, where many feel that the city has bailed out Real Development (also known as the “Minnesota Guys”) by not only granting TIF financing to them, but increasing the amount of TIF financing against the recommendation of its independent consultant?
Compounding the problem is the obvious lack of understanding of the economic effects of TIF districts by members of the Wichita City Council, and possibly by city hall bureaucrats, too. Wichita vice mayor Jeff Longwell has complained to the Wichita Eagle that the public doesn’t understand tax increment financing. We should be questioning Longwell’s own understanding, and that of council member Janet Miller, too.
Longwell and Miller — the rest of the council too, for that matter — are aided by newspaper reporters like the Wichita Eagle’s Bill Wilson, who is dismissive and hostile towards free markets and those who advocate for them, calling reliance on markets “intellectually shallow” and a “thin ideological argument.”
Most City Council members are not well educated, consequently, you can’t expect them to understand finances and accounting. Most of these individuals could not work in the private sector, but they have been elected by a very low percentage of the Wichita residents and backed financially by a very small group of greedy business people. Bill Wilson is a “wannabe reporter” hoping to be discovered.