Letter: Rethink Project Jackson
Thank you to Aiken County Council for the opportunity to speak Tuesday, Sept. 10th on Project Jackson. By the 6-3 vote, it appears that heading into the third reading Project Jackson will come to being. I appreciate that you took the time to listen to the concerns of the citizens who elected you. I hope that this is not a forgone conclusion.
I will attempt to make one more plea to not approve Project Jackson with the principle that public-private partnerships do not work. Tuesday evening, you were supplied with data to prove this. Tax Increment Financing districts, also known as TIFs, have been abused in other states. California and Illinois have banned TIFs because they created so much trouble for the municipalities. Do not start that which is near impossible to stop. Councilmember Chuck Smith used the “tool box” analogy for the TIF as another tool in the County’s tool box to use. Councilmember Scott Singer also used the “tool box” analogy. In Singer’s industry of financial advising, derivatives are a tool for him to use, however we have seen that in the financial markets derivatives are destroying the market. I believe that TIF accomplishes the same goal.
Councilmember Kathy Rawls talked to the ratio disparity of what the County brings and what the developer brings to the $150 million dollar project. Citing a total of $75.8 million of combined TIF funds from the School Board, Aiken County and North Augusta. The ratio looks like a 50/50 split of the $150 million project. If I cannot convince you to oppose this project on principle, and you vote to go down this path of approving Project Jackson then the County, like the school board, needs to name the terms of the agreement. This is my proposal: Limit the TIF to 15 years, add “claw back” benchmarks for failing to perform on the developers. Have the developers pay for underachievement by paying taxes for that lack of effort; or if this is truly a public-private partnership have the developers create a joint Venture Partnership where they would split 50/50 all revenue with the County. The County would then be a full partner in Project Jackson.
In a venture such as this, the County would share in the revenue, or share in the deficit of Project Jackson.
If you are going to gamble with the County’s money, by all means, let’s go big.