I agree with The Aegis that welfare for the wealthy has no place in Harford County ("TIF is bad public policy," Sept. 26, 2012). Fortunately, readers can rest assured that the James Run Corporate Campus and its tax increment finance package in no way fits that description.
As a supporter of the James Run project, let me explain. James Run, a proposed development of office, lodging and retail space in Creswell, includes the issuance of bonds – or a TIF – to pay for public road, sewer and infrastructure improvements.
First, a TIF is no way designed to enrich developers. To the contrary, law requires that every penny derived from a TIF must be spent on a "public good." In the case of James Run, TIF financing pays for 10 offsite traffic improvements, including four along Route 7 and the Route 543 and 136 intersection. Anyone commuting near Aberdeen Proving Ground at rush hour knows those improvements are the textbook example of a "public good."
Second, Harford County does not any time use the full faith and credit of government to secure or issue a bond. Indeed, the county does not even make payments on the bond. Only the developers of the James Run Corporate Campus are responsible for making payments on the bond – and they do so only with their money.
Third, TIF revenue comes from bond buyers – not taxpayers. A TIF package is a transaction between two private entities – the buyers of bonds and real estate developers obligated to repay those bonds. The county is the regulating entity in the arrangement.
Lastly, Harford County will actually earn revenue under the TIF proposal. The county will see an estimated $92 million in new real estate tax revenue over 30 years. That's a 268 percent return on the value of the TIF.
Let me be clear: I would not support a TIF package for the James Run Corporate Campus unless I believed it was fiscally responsible and protected the taxpayer. James Run is a sound investment, slated to create 6,200 new jobs right here in Harford County and delivery sorely-needed traffic improvements to keep our residents and our economy moving. The Harford County Council should vote "YES" on the TIF package with hesitation on October 16.