Tax-increment funding deal requires scrutiny [Letter]

Howard County taxpayers are financing a $91 million Crescent-area deal in Columbia’s Town Center, where $51 million will be used to construct a garage to be owned and operated using tax increment financing, or TIF.

Howard Hughes Corporation, a private enterprise development company, will construct the project.

Our Republican county executive proposed and sold the TIF idea to our Democratic County Council.

Council members Calvin Ball (D), Mary K. Sigaty (D), Jon Weinstein (D) and Greg Fox (R) support this method of using future taxpayer dollars over a 30- to 40-year period to finance this project. Howard Hughes will eventually own and control the assets paid for with taxpayer-funded TIF bonds.

The number of TIFs will inevitably increase as County Executive Kittleman, Howard Hughes and our present County Council work with other developers who will construct a total of 6,400 residential units in Columbia, approximately 1,000 of these earmarked for placement downtown. This is in addition, to the 817 units, designated as the Metropolitan, now being constructed in the Warfield neighborhood.

My cursory review of the executive summary of the Howard Hughes Corporation TIF application for Columbia Town Center finds this analysis to be lacking.

This report requires a lot more financial scrutiny before being used to base speculative assumptions in support of the proposed Crescent neighborhood projects. If developers have a county executive and County Council willing to provide them with TIFs, seen as free taxpayer dollars, whenever additional funds are required, they will proceed with profit-making projects without adequate public facilities in place. Our Howard County representatives need to be mindful of the electorate’s best interest.

I encourage taxpayers to review the TIF report in order to draw your own conclusions.

Harry Dunbar

Owen Brown

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