I've sent the following letter to Cheryl Musgrave (PropertyTaxInfo@dlgf.in.gov), Commissioner of the Department of Local Government Finance. Musgrave has approximately 90 days to approve the Harrison Square bond financing. I wanted to voice my discontent towards the project and I would encourage everyone else to do the same. Property taxes are certainly a hot potato right now so there's a slight chance Musgrave will listen to the people.
I'm writing to voice my opposition to the Harrison Square project here in Fort Wayne. I was very dismayed to read that one of the DLGF commission members said the claim that 70% of the residents were against Harrison Square is "unsubstantiated and unfounded". While 70% might be a slight exaggeration, recent Zogby polling data found that 65% of the public was against the project. Of course councilmen Talarico and Pape would have you believe this is because the public just doesn't understand and if they could educate them then they would support the project.
However, they have had 6+ months to explain this project to people and the people still do not want it. Mayor Richard has time and again said the project will not be payed for with an increase in property taxes. However, expanding the TIF district eliminates a large section of prime downtown real estate from the tax rolls. To argue that this land would never be improved over the next 30 years without Harrison Square is ridiculous. Remonstrators recently beat back a $500 Million bond the local school district was trying to get for their long term facilities project. Taking land like this off the tax rolls will only further exacerbate the problem the school district faces.
Beyond that, there has been no credible analysis that the new TIF district will generate the necessary revenues to pay for the bond. Numerous citizens have requested the relevant financial information from the city only to be stonewalled time and again by the administration. The city's argument has been that they are only planning on using 50% of the Jefferson Pointe TIF to support the Harrison Square project and that, if necessary, they can dip into the other 50%. What they don't tell people is that other 50% has already been accounted for in other places in the budget. THIS is why they needed the backing of a general property tax increase to get the bond financing - it's because their TIF numbers simply don't add up.
The city is building a turn-key baseball stadium to replace one that is only 13 years old. They're also providing, as far as I've been able to ascertain, the largest subsidy ever for a Courtyard by Marriott hotel. All of this is being done under the guise of "economic development". The taxpayers know what the project entails and we don't want it. We know that it will inevitably lead to an increase in property taxes at a time when increases have come in at 47% for certain parts of the city.
Since our local government will not listen to the people, and can no longer claim to represent the people, we can only urge you to do what's right and reject this bond lease.