The Apr. 5-6 edition of this paper contained an article entitled, "County, city remain at odds over new Branson Hills TIF." The article reported that among others, Ed Akers, the president of the Branson/Lakes Area Tourism Community Enhancement District (TCED) met with the Taney County Commission on Tuesday morning Apr.4 to discuss the county's actions regarding the TIF (Tax Increment Financing) at the Branson Hills Redevelopment Project.
Akers said, "We are very concerned about the loss of the tax revenue for us to promote the area for tourism" and "Our board voted to advise the public about the consequences of losing these tax dollars." Oh really, if the board is truly concerned about the loss of its tax revenues at the Branson Hills Redevelopment Project it has sure managed to hide it well up to this point.
The TCED has been in existence since before the first discussion of the Branson Landing TIF and years before any public discussion on the Branson Hills TIF. The Ole Seagull has been the Taney County representative on the TIF Commission for both of these TIFs. In all of that time, not once, has a representative of the TCED appeared in front of the Commission or has the TCED submitted any other documentation regarding any concerns it may have had, or requesting any abatement of the TIF, as to its tax revenues.
Is there just the possibility that both the city and developers, wanting millions of tax payer dollars to subsidize their projects, would have agreed to some accommodation with the TCED had it been requested? Why wouldn't they when no tax had been authorized by the voters yet and the proceeds of such a tax, even if enacted, were not part of the specific financials used in the original TIF process?
For example, revenues from the TCED retail sales tax were not part of the original TIF Plan for the Branson Hills Project dated May 25, 2004. Then suddenly, in Dec. of 2005, the TIF Plan was amended to, among other things; add the TCED retail sales tax as a revenue source to pay off the TIF.
Interestingly, at the same time the TCED's retail tax revenue was added to the plan, it appears that the reimbursable expenses that the developer received went up over $2 million. Where was the concern of the TCED board then, when timely action on their part might have saved them, at a minimum, hundreds of thousands in tax revenues and possibly millions?
"Seagull, is there a chance that that the city was negotiating with the developer and a big box store to TIF the TCED Retail Sales Tax prior to the election even as the voters were being told that the entire proceeds would go to marketing?" The chances of that happening are about as great as a city government that cares about public input from its citizens, scheduling a TIF public hearing for 6:00 p.m. on Good Friday evening of Easter weekend. "But Seagull, hasn't the city scheduled a TIF hearing for 6:00 p.m. on Apr. 14, Good Friday evening." Come to think of it that's exactly what they've done.
After the voters passed the tourism tax in Nov. of 2005, and it became apparent that the City of Branson intended to take 50 percent of the TCED tourism tax the voters had just approved, the board among other things, voted to send a letter to the City of Branson asking the city not to collect the TIF in Branson Hills. When Akers and the board were asked to also include Branson Landing in the same letter the request was ignored.
It's hard for an Ole Seagull to reconcile Akers stated concern "about the loss of the tax revenue for us to promote the area for tourism" with his action ignoring the potential loss of tax revenues at Branson Landing. Again, just how much in tax revenue is the district losing by not getting its full tax from Branson Landing?
It seems as if the TCED Board has the cart before horse. Shouldn't it be addressing its concerns about losing tax revenue to the City of Branson, the entity that is actually taking the revenue from them, not the Taney County Commission to whom the City of Branson is doing the same thing?
To an Ole Seagull, the reality of the current situation is that, as a direct consequence of the TCED Board's consistent pattern of failing to take timely, appropriate and effective action, millions of dollars in tax revenues, that the voters entrusted to them to use for the marketing of Branson, will, instead, be used by the City of Branson to pay off TIF obligations for Branson Landing and Branson Hills. What a pathetic travesty!