City leaders, apparently without being aware of it, or at least certainly not admitting it, have constructed the long sought miracle - Perpetual Motion!!! It’s been around for decades. We’ve just been looking under the wrong labels.
As used in Indianapolis it’s called Tax Increment Financing.
It came to us this morning in a blinding flash as we read of the newest application. We’re going to turn the old city hall building into a combination hotel and art gallery. And of course, we’ll use TIF funds to get the job done.
The process is brilliantly put together. We carve huge geographic chunks of the city into one consolidated TIF district with individual projects and related debt floating around therein. That way, with dollar bills being as fungible as they are, the total debt is never payed off so "incremental" revenue increases never have to be completely paid toward ordinary municipal expenses.
This allows the amassing of the "mayor’s slush fund" (in the last report we remember seeing, nearly $100 million), which simply awaits the identification of the next proposal from the lucky folks who happen to have access to those dollars. That new proposal then renews/increases the debt, which naturally increases the time necessary to delay additional revenue to those pesky municipal functions - parks, public safety, etc..
But that’s OK. It has been demonstrated that new or increased taxes for those purposes (at least allegedly for those purposes when being sold) are easily obtained with the coordinated effort of politicians, business organizations, and local media policy. And it seems to make absolutely no difference as to which political party happens to occupy the mayor’s office.
We have to admit, however, that our analogy does have a weak spot. In order to work, the size of the TIF district ultimately would have to be county wide? - state wide? - nation wide? - infinite? Surely the populace will awaken to what’s going on before we reach that point!
Or will it?