City commission decides fate of CRA

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The Tallahassee City Commission has made its position clear.

It voted unanimously to keep a downtown redevelopment district  without the involvement or tax cash of the county.

But a day before,   the Leon County Commission voted to sunset the downtown district by 2020 and draw.

City and county administrators now have to determine how to achieve what both sides want — remove the County Commission from participating in the downtown district without also eliminating its four members in the board of the Tallahassee Community Redevelopment Agency.

The Tallahassee CRA is your voting board that considers and approves projects requesting CRA financing for redevelopment locations and the Caribbean.

“Should  we remove them with regard to financing, there’s a really separate question of eliminating them from the board,” City Attorney Lew Shelley stated.

There doesn’t seem to be a precedent for one of those things at a CRA with several districts but remain on the board, Shelley stated.

The county can’t remove itself unilaterally. It might require a change in the arrangements that made both the district and the CRA.

But how?

“We’re on uncharted ground,” Shelley told commissioners.

It’ll be up to the city manager and county secretary to negotiate a way ahead before the CRA’s next meeting, scheduled for Nov. 9.

“It’s our job to marry those remarks from the city and county,” Deputy City Manager Wayne Tedder explained.

The move to decouple the county started a year past when commissioners were considering their options if a referendum to make a second homestead exemption is accepted.

Ever since then, the Tallahassee CRA and many developers behind downtown projects have fallen as part of a public corruption investigation under FBI scrutiny.

If approved by voters, the amendment to the Florida Constitution could be put into place at 2020. The county could lose  $1 million in earnings. Pulling from the downtown district will save the county $1.4 million a year.

The County Commission voted to honor its commitments and are under negotiations.  

CRA, county and the city will have to deal with outstanding obligations made to three projects in addition to a number of projects currently under discussion for CRA financing.

And then there is the question of returning funds based on which choice the boards ultimately decide on.

City commissioners said they wish to reduce the downtown district’s range by removing events financing and pay for   public works projects.

If the district has been retained with a few constraints, or if there’s absolutely absolutely no change to the downtown district, the gain in tax revenue are $85 million. The internet real estate taxes into the county would be $46 million, according to city estimates. If the district has been retained with constraints, the city and the county could return $ 19 million in funds and $ 21 million, respectively.

Sunsetting the district by 2020 could result in just a $40 million tax increment, with the city getting the county $ 65 million and a 21 million in property taxes, according to city estimates.    

City commissioners were angry that county commissioners also voted to hold off on enlarging the Greater Frenchtown/Southside development district till they resolved getting from their downtown district.

“It’s dreadful to me they want to couple that with getting from the arrangement,” said City Commissioner Curtis Richardson, who has been pushing to expand the southside district for a long time.

Said Mayor Andrew Gillum: “Hopefully, they didn’t mean to imply holding southside citizens hostage.”  

Contact Schweers at jschweers@tallahassee.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeffschweers.

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