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Archive for March 23rd, 2011

23
Mar

How much TIF leftover money is there lying around Lincoln?

On Monday, the Lincoln City Council was asked to approve using $400,000 worth of “leftover TIF” funds from an old redevelopment project to do a streetscape project a few blocks to the south.

The redevelopment project was at the Lincoln Star back — back when it was called the Lincoln Star and not the Lincoln Journal Star. The redevelopment project dates to 1996, and the value of the property involved has increased from $800,000 then to more than $4 million now.

Anyway, this is an example of a TIF project where the bonds have been paid off, and extra TIF money is sitting in a bank account. So the Urban Development Department comes up with a plan to use the money, by expanding the border of the original TIF district to include a new area, therefore allowing them to spend the money over there. In this case, they’re expanding from the Journal Star area to M Street from Seventh to 17th streets.

Today, I called for a full accounting or report from the city on all of the TIF funds that have this kind of “leftover” money in them. How many are there? How much money is in them? Can it be used for infrastructure needs in the area of the TIF districts? Should it be returned to the original taxing entities instead of used by the city? These are my questions.

This is not the first time the city has used leftover TIF funds for a nearby pet project. The city also plans to use leftover money from a Lincoln Mall project for Centennial Mall.

Here’s how the city sometimes ends up with extra TIF dollars: The city buys the TIF bonds, which are usually 15-year bonds, and if the project generates more property tax revenue than projected (which is often the case, since the city used to be very conservative in their estimates), the bonds can be paid off earlier than that. But the money that would have otherwise been property taxes instead accumulates in the TIF account.

Back when I was a reporter, I asked some council members about these TIF pots of money, but they seemed clueless about them. And uninterested. Well, I’m interested. Perhaps the money could be used for street work — but I wouldn’t blame the school district, county and NRD (to name the big ones) for feeling like they’d like some of this leftover TIF money, too.

In the Lincoln Star case, if the city chose to give the extra money to the taxing entities that would normally receive it, the city would only get $56,000, whereas the school district would get about $240,000. So you can see why the city prefers to keep the excess money all to itself.

23
Mar

Nelson and KLIN: It’s not our Facebook ad

Whoever took out a Facebook ad calling me a liberal Obama-lover (I’m paraphrasing) had better hope local journalists aren’t too good at tracking them down.

Because they are looking.

As I reported here Monday, a Facebook friend of mine reported seeing the ads multiple times over the weekend. I haven’t seen one, but then I don’t spend a lot of time trolling Facebook. The man copied and pasted the text of the ad, which said, “Liberal Deena Winter; klin.com; At a recent event, City Council Candidate Deena Winter said, ‘OBAMA has done an OK job so far.’ Do you agree? Yes or no?”

He said the ad also featured my old mug shot from the Lincoln Journal Star — which I’m sure the paper didn’t give permission to use. Some people have said the “yes/no” link didn’t take them anywhere; others said it took them to a KLIN podcast about the LIBA debate.

I emailed both KLIN and Travis Nelson’s campaign manager to see if either of them were behind the ads (since Nelson has made a point of trying to portray himself as Mr. Conservative). A KLIN employee replied yesterday, saying they have no idea where the ad came from. Nelson’s campaign manager finally responded this afternoon (four days after I asked), saying, “Nelson’s campaign is not the source of the Facebook ad.”

KLIN’s Jack Mitchell is spitting mad because of the connection to KLIN — making it appear as though the radio station has a dog in the fight or prefers a certain candidate. Obviously, that would be improper of KLIN. Mitchell has vowed to track down the person behind the ad.

I am trying, too — although Facebook doesn’t make it easy to try to reach an actual human (no surprise there). I’ve filled out their online forms in an attempt to get information about the ad. I doubt they’ll be very responsive though. They have the world to rule, after all.

A local reporter has asked me to send a screen shot of the ad if someone manages to capture one (although I wouldn’t be surprised if the ad has quickly been pulled), because such ads are legally required to disclose who paid for them. In other words, the ad shunned Nebraska campaign law.

You may remember the brouhaha a few years ago when it was discovered that former Councilman Glenn Friendt was behind some angry, anonymous ads against former councilmen Terry Werner and Dan Marvin.

That’s what happens when you get an aggressive attorney involved in tracking down these kinds of law-shunning ads. Any takers?

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