Dear Editor,

I have read with interest the letters recently published regarding the use of tax abatements to encourage economic development. As Councilmen O’Connor and Peterson elaborated, new or expanding businesses may ultimately increase the tax base and those business owners have developed an expectation of support for their projects. There are certainly circumstances when the use of tax abatements or tax increment financing (TIF) are appropriate. The question that must be decided by an administration and/or a city council considering the request for such support is what are the benefits to the city in increased jobs, increased tax base, or in addressing a need identified before the request was made. Those potential benefits must be weighed against the lost taxes to the city in the short term, and in the case of TIF, the negative impact to other taxing entities (the schools, the library, etc.) over decades. Again, there are certainly occasions when the potential benefits outweigh the negative impacts, but it shouldn’t happen every time. 

I appreciate that the requests are available for public review on the city website. What mechanism is the city using to track the measurable benefits? The loss of tax revenue through abatements and TIF has led to the trash fee for city residents and the need for additional referendum dollars for our schools. As a school board member for the last 12 years, I am unaware of any occasion when the schools were afforded an opportunity to provide input on potential abatements prior to their passage by the city. A school board member has a non-voting seat on the redevelopment commission to address potential TIF projects, but again, no vote. Regardless, although there have been a number of recent projects which have received some form of benefit from our city administration and council, to date our taxes have gone up and our trash service is no longer included in those taxes but is now paid by a separate fee.  

As Noblesville prepares for its bicentennial, it is critical that we approach economic development opportunities with intentional focus and with a transparent methodology for evaluating when stimulus in the form of tax abatement or TIF support is appropriate.

- Julia Church Kozicki, Noblesville

EDITORS NOTE: Julia Church Kozicki has filed her candidacy for mayor of Noblesville.