Webster TIF district revival

MSA engineer Dave Rasmussen (left) outlines a proposed new tax increment financing district in Webster to village trustee Aaron Sears, who owns property in the noted area.

There will be a new Tax Increment Funding (TIF) district in Webster, although it takes in part of a past TIF district that didn’t do all that well, suffering dramatically during the housing crisis in 2008-09. 

The new TIF #3 will move forward after a decision last week by the Webster Village Board, which met on Wednesday, Sept. 8, where they voted to move forward with creating a new, multi-use TIF district, which encompasses a portion of a previous TIF, but adds to it and allows for village expansion and growth in a mixed-use of housing and commercial industry, without raising taxes on current residents.

MSA engineer Dave Rasmussen outlined the pros and cons of the new TIF, admitting that the current TIF #2 is not going to earn much back for the village.

“The current TIF can’t do any more improvements,” Rasmussen said. “There’s five years left, but it is not doing very well.”

The new TIF is crafted to include the old TIF, but also to add several areas where the village actually can expand and capture the incremental improvements in property tax values to invest in the infrastructure in the TIF, in theory adding to the overall village value for the life of the new TIF, which is 20 years, with 15 years allowed for the improvement expenditures.

Rasmussen noted that if they approve it prior to Sept. 30, they can capture the increment since January 1, which means that several homes constructed recently would be included in the new TIF expenditures, with several other new homes in the works. 

The original TIF was created in 2005, but saw a reduced valuation, due to the housing crisis. The new TIF does allow the village to recapture some of the lost values, as they effectively are extending the life of the old TIF by overlaying it with the new TIF district.

MSA will charge the village $13,500 for creating and doing other state work with the Department of Revenue and other annual reports.

While several Webster trustees were a bit wary of a new TIF, due to the failures of the past TIF.

“We’re paying on that one still, it didn’t work out so well,” stated trustee Tim Maloney. “We got burnt in 2008-2009.”

Rasmussen said the new overlay will allow them to possibly break even on the old TIF, and will allow them to do some work on their water and sewer system, as well as other improvements that they might have had to do anyway.

“The TIF is one of those tools to set it up,” Rasmussen said. “Water main extensions, lots of other work ... would have to be done in the next 15 years anyway.”

Village president Jeff Roberts also smoothed over some trustee concern about possible tax increase. 

“The TIF won’t increase taxes, in fact it’s going to save us some money,” Roberts said. 

The village TIF fund will retain all those added increment values o in the affected areas, while keeping the tax rates steady for the life of the TIF for the other taxing entities affected, which includes Burnett County, Northwoods Technical College and the Webster School district.

The board debated the new TIF for a spell before voting unanimously in favor of moving forward with a professional services agreement with MSA for the TIF establishment. The next step would then need be a meeting of a Joint Review Board, that includes all the taxing entities, followed by a review by the Webster Plan Commission and public hearing for a recommendation and then back to the full village board for final approval. 

“I feel a lot more confident with this TIF than the other one,” trustee Maloney admitted.

In other village business:

• Trustee Bill Summer sought general approval from the village board on having the Webster Chamber of Commerce move forward with a grant application through the state Tourism Department, seeking up to $100,000 to be used to purchase a vacant store front on Main Street downtown. 

According to Summer, the store would be used as a sort of headquarters for area tourism, offering everything from maps to brochures, info and other recreational services, to possibly offering merchandise like T-shirts, sweatshirts and coffee mugs for sale, to help cover the maintenance and other possible costs.

“It would be adding one more thing on Main Street,” Summer said, with the board enthusiastically in support. 

Summer said they would staff the center from approximately Memorial Day until the early fall, past Labor Day, which he said might allow it to “pay for itself.”

“Its’ a big undertaking on my part, but I’m willing to do it,” Summer said. 

He said the Chamber has already set up some of the necessary things like establishing a 501 c(3) non-profit tax exempt status, creating new bylaws and other things that would make them eligible for the Tourism Department grant. 

Summer said they even have a location in mind downtown, in the long vacant gift shop at 7455 Main Street, which has been for sale for two years or so, 

“Who knows, the price may even be negotiable,” Summer said. 

“I think it’s a good idea,” village president Jeff Roberts said. “And a grant doesn’t really cost anything.”

• The board praised the efforts of the Gandy Dancer Ping Pong Club, which not only made a $250 cash donation to the village for use of the community center, but also upgraded the lighting in the center to more efficient and better lighting.

“This is so nice,” stated trustee Tim Maloney, who noted they went “over and above” what was expected of them.

• The board reluctantly approved a bid of $12,340 to a local firm that will do the demolition work on the new village hall, with the intent to get the former chiropractic office into the planned interior configuration for the new village office and police department.

The firm was the only bidder for the project, but the board approved it on the stipulation that the work is completed to the satisfactory review by the architect involved in the project.

• As noted in previous weeks, the board approved a water rate increase of 3-percent, across the board, starting with the January-March 2022 billing cycle. 

The village will revisit the water account will be reviewed in the coming months for economic stability, per the state Public Service Commission. 

• The board approved a contract with the village of Siren to share an administrative assistant for the police department, for one day a week, with an annual review and right to reconsider if Siren increases the position pay.

• An issue of doing some roadwork and crack sealing next summer but paying for it now was discussed, and whether to hold off or to pay Fahrner now for 2022 crack sealing work though part of the village and into the Fairgrounds. Fahrner said they would honor the price quoted for next summer if they agree to move forward, which they did for approximately $33,000.