Twin Cities tax incentive policy due for review

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AUBURN — An economic development policy designed to put Lewiston and Auburn on equal footing is due for a review, councilors were told Monday.

Roland Miller said proposed changes to the Twin Cities’ joint tax increment finance policy are mostly cosmetic.

“These are not substantial changes,” Miller said during Monday’s City Council workshop meeting. “There was some wording that was added to the types of business and the types of uses that could qualify.”

Lewiston and Auburn negotiated the policy in 1999. It’s one piece of a broader policy designed to keep the cities from competing against each other when it comes to luring developers and new business to the community.

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“I deal with site selectors and they make no bones about it. They tell me that they are taking offers from other places,” Miller said. “When they say they are considering locating in Lewiston, I give them a copy of this policy.”

The policy was updated in 2004 and the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council reviewed the rules and suggested changes in October.

TIF districts allow cities to keep new development out of the state’s property valuations. Those valuations determine how much aid to the schools and revenue sharing a community can get: Higher property values mean a city gets less help from the state.

When a city creates a TIF district, it sets a baseline value on all property within the district’s borders. That can include housing developments, new industry or other business or retail investment. Property owners continue to pay property taxes on that baseline value.

Taxes based on the new — or incremental — construction can be given back to the taxpayer as an incentive or can be put into a special city account and earmarked for certain purposes, like economic development. Councilors can decide how much of that incremental tax revenue is set aside and how it can be used when they first create the TIF district.

The joint TIF policy sets the ground rules for both cities. For example, TIFs will only be granted to businesses that invest a minimum of $2 million and promise to retain existing jobs or create at least 26 full-time jobs that pay a minimum livable wage.

According to the policy, TIFs are available for high tech, industrial and office developments. That includes research facilities, manufacturing and assembly centers, warehouse and transportation projects, financial services, teleconferencing, professional, technical and taxable medical offices.

Councilors asked for copies of both versions of the policy and agreed to schedule another workshop meeting to review them.

staylor@sunjournal.com

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