Doug Diny

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Dear editor,

In response to Monday’s breaking story: Lawmakers Kill secret Wausau TIF expansion Bill:  I have suggestions on how to solve our TIF dilemma moving forward without a special Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) exception for Wausau to exceed the state regulated 12% cap on TIF tax sheltered properties.  An exception would have meant that more and more properties would be taken-off the general tax roles and will be unavailable to fund city services.  Instead, the revenue collected from them would be dedicated to paying-off Wausau’s increasing debt. That’s not what citizens need and fortunately this bill was stopped in the State Senate.

What’s the solution?  Fairly simple:

1. Close TID #7: All of its projects are complete, and it is projected to have a $340,000 surplus this year.  Closing it would return $87,000,000 in property tax valuation and roughly $1.5 million annually in increment revenue back into the general fund.  Problem solved. We’d be well under the 12% cap and our Economic Development team would have some wiggle room to spare.

More importantly, closing Tax Incremental District (TID) #7 would bolster local operating budgets as follows:

  • It would add about $600,000 to the City of Wausau’s operating budget
  • It would add about $525,000 to the Wausau School District budget
  • It would add about $300,000 to Marathon County’s budget
  • It would add about $75,000 to Northcentral Technical College’s budget

 It is important to understand that TIDs take money away from local services.  We don’t need more TIDs; we need less.  Close TID #7 now.  

2. Embrace the “BUT FOR” rule.  It requires cities moving projects forward to ask if that “BUT FOR” city involvement and tax sheltering, would not be able to happen.  I can’t recall the last time a council member asked to apply this rule.  

3. Respect Cap Limits.  The cap is there to protect the taxpayer from excessive risk and ensure adequate tax base for the rest of our city services.   The cap is reasonable.  

4.  Minimize DONOR TIDs: Donor TIDs are a legal strategy to help distressed projects, but we’ve been doing musical chairs TIDs so much in the past, we’ve got no room under the cap to justify it further. Comingling money like this makes it virtually impossible to evaluate success of any project.

5.  Task Organize: Create a developer agreement review board comprised of developers, bank experts and area businesspeople to better vet our developments and help set course for the future.  Add to the mix an effort to better work with Marathon County and cities in the Greater Wausau Metro Area. Let’s begin to negotiate deals with the best interest of Wausau taxpayers in mind. 

8. Over-Communicate: Communicate candidly with the public. On important issues like this, if you aren’t over-communicating, you’re under communicating.   Citizens should be able to read a pro forma executive summary of any city-involved project and understand exactly what they are getting for the tax investment.  It’s a simple ask to reveal the actual risk relative to probability of payback. I trust taxpayers to recognize acceptable risk when we see it.

Doug Diny

Candidate, Wausau City Council