Residents Richard Bielinski and Ken McLoon are sponsoring a warrant article petition to see if the Town will vote to dissolve the Londonderry Airport Tax Increment Finance (TIF) District.
“The fact is that the people never had the choice as to whether or not they wanted the TIF to begin with. The Town Council took it upon themselves to establish it,” said Bielinski, who argued that the developers should be responsible for all costs associated with building the road, as well as the $225,000 traffic light to be funded by revenue from the TIF District. “They own it; if it’s zoned correctly, they can do as they want. But it shouldn’t be paid for out of the taxpayers’ pocketbook.”
The warrant article calls for any funds sitting in or due to the Airport TIF District bank account to be transferred to the general fund for the sole purpose of offsetting the tax rate.
As of the 2014 tax year, $114,000 is in the TIF District account.
“My opinion is the Town Council is using tax money not to offset the tax rate, but to leave it in there and if they need to put an extra two lanes on Pettengill Road, they’ll use that money to do it,” Bielinski said. “Why should that money be held two or three or four years while they decide when people in this town need tax relief?”
“As long as there’s a balance in the TIF District account, that money can be used for any infrastructure improvements in that area,” Town Manager Kevin Smith said. “If the council wanted to use TIF money to do that (add two lanes to Pettengill Road), it could. I haven’t heard the council is inclined to do that at this time.”
Smith noted his immediate concern with the proposed warrant article is that the town is already obligated to meet its agreement with Pettengill Road developers to pay for the traffic signal – and the plan was to use money from the TIF District to do that.
Additionally, the Town is using its sewer use fees to pay for sewer infrastructure in the area.
“This is what you call a public/private partnership,” Smith said. “One can take the stand that it should be funded all private and no public, which the town did for 10 years, and that land sat dormant for 10 years. Any of the developers would tell you, had the town not partnered and paid for the quarter-million traffic light through the TIF, (Pettengill construction) wouldn’t have happened.
“One can take the position that municipalities shouldn’t be at the table,” Smith added. “I prefer to see progress and development happen so we can generate tax revenue to offset residential development. It’s no coincidence private parties started coming to the table when the road was built. The fact that the Council showed they were willing to have skin in the game was vital to getting the project through.”
If the warrant article passed and the traffic light couldn’t be funded with money from the TIF District, Smith said he doesn’t know where the funds would come from. But the Town would still be responsible to pay its $250,000 share of the agreement, and the funding would need voter approval.
“They keep saying it’s not costing anything, but it is,” Bielinski said. “It’s money that could be going to offset the tax rate. I know a lot of people who are just barely making it, and $500 to $600 can be the difference between eating well or getting good health care.”
But once the businesses locating along Pettengill Road are online, the Town will see a major increase in revenue to the Town that will more than return the taxpayers’ initial $250,000 investment, according to Smith.
“A conservative estimate is over $1 million in tax revenue annually for UPS, FedEx, and Milton CAT,” he said. “And that’s not counting what is yet to come in because that road is going to be there now. If another large user comes in, like a hotel, it would be much more.”
Bielinski argues that although residents may expect to see their taxes offset in the future, if they move before the TIF is dissolved, whoever purchases their home will see the benefit of the additional tax revenue from the businesses that come in, not the seller.
“I think the people should have been given the right to vote if they wanted the TIF,” he said. “If the people want to put this in and keep it, at least they had a voice.”