DIXFIELD — Whether the town will pursue some form of development benefits under a tax increment financing agreement with wind turbine developers Patriot Renewables LLC wasn't decided Wednesday night, but selectmen have a better understanding of how such a program might work.
The board and a half-dozen townspeople heard a detailed presentation by Mathew Eddy, a consultant with the Augusta-based Eaton Peabody Consulting Group LLC, on how a TIF would work and the steps the town must take if it wants to participate.
Following the nearly two-hour presentation, board Chairman Steve Donahue said selectmen likely would have to hold another workshop to sift through the information and discuss possible projects the town may wish to pursue.
A TIF is a locally controlled economic development financing program that is funded by property taxes on a development project. Rather than using all property taxes in one year, it would be spread over several years, or it could be sheltered. In Dixfield's case, a proposal for up to 13 wind turbines on the Colonel Holman ridge with a value of about $30 million is the subject of a possible TIF agreement.
Eddy emphasized that any town that chooses to take part in a TIF must have a strategy for using taxable funds that would come from the turbine project.
He said the village of Dixfield would be the site of projects using TIF funds. A TIF would freeze the value of that area so that improvements could be made.
“A long-range plan is needed,” he said. “Think in terms of need.”
He said projects such as water, business parks and sidewalk work have been used by other towns that took advantage of TIF financing. Sometimes, TIFs are used in combination with Community Development Block Grants for eligible projects.
Town Manager Eugene Skibitsky said the board would decide on the next steps at its Monday meeting.
“We'll need to vision it out as to where we want to be in 20 years," he said. "We need a process." The Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments might help the board devise a process, he said.
Eddy said the board should have a plan in place within a year because that is the rough time frame for Patriot Renewables to get its plan approved by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.
He advised the town to analyze basic municipal financial information and the effect on taxes and consider several projects and their estimated costs before he returns. At that time, he would complete a financial analysis and begin to develop a concept.
Any TIF proposal by the board would be subject to public hearings and approval by townspeople before going to the Department of Economic and Community Development for approval.
Eddy's work is paid for by the town with funds provided by Patriot Renewables.