A citizens group of local businessmen made a push Tuesday night for the city to begin considering alternate ways of funding infrastructure development.

Finding a way to push water and sewer infrastructure further into east Edmond became a campaign issue earlier this year, and has been on the City Council’s strategic plan.

Under the new business item of an exceedingly quick City Council meeting Tuesday night, former Mayor Carl F. Reherman proposed the council begin more proactive discussions of allowing Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts in the city. To date, the city has not offered a TIF proposal, but several city officials and city-appointed board members have researched the financing mechanism, which has been used in Oklahoma City and proposed in both Norman and Enid among other sites.

Reherman spoke as executive director of Citizens for Edmond, a group established about a year ago to push for the “implementation of sound public policy.” Citizens for Edmond also formed the first Section 527 Committee in the city to be able to contribute to political campaigns.

A TIF district allows any growth in future property tax revenue from a designated area to be redirected to financing a capital improvement project. For example, any property tax amount for an area now going to Edmond Public Schools would not diminish if a TIF district was created. But for a certain period of time, any property tax increase above the level established as the existing base, would be diverted to the new project. TIFs originally were created as a way for municipalities to help pay for economic development and/or redevelopment projects.

“The concept is incoming new companies can take advantage of a TIF to build these utilities,” Reherman told the council.

“We feel it’s an excellent opportunity to expand your budget (for capital improvements),” he said.

For years, Edmond has required developers pay for infrastructure extension as the city has grown urbanized in the western half of its 90-square-mile limits. But the thought of east Edmond developing mostly as rural, or acreage lots, because of physical and cost difficulties in extending infrastructure has given some city officials pause. The council has been discussing how it might speed infrastructure to east of Interstate 35, but so far has not settled on how to pay for such a potentially expensive endeavor.

Reherman went to the council because the state law that created TIF districts requires a municipality to create a committee that includes county and school district officials among others to review any TIF proposals.

Ward 4 Councilman David Miller said he supports the idea.

“I think it’s an excellent idea and I want to move forward,” he said during the meeting.

Ward 3 Councilman Charles Lamb said he has been researching TIF districts for awhile and is interested in having future discussion. “I’m open-minded about it,” Lamb said.

Mayor Saundra Naifeh said the city is aware of TIF districts, but also noted the city has a variety of other projects before it.

“If it fits in, we’re good at partnering,” she said, noting it’s an item that has been in the council’s long-range plan for the last three years.

In a letter he presented to the council, Reherman also offered two outside experts on TIF districts whom he said could give information to the council. They are Tom Thompson, senior vice president with Kirkpatrick Pettis, and Daniel E. McMahan with Financial Advisory Services.

Since the item was brought up under new business, no action was taken, but Reherman asked the council to put it on a future agenda.

In other business for the last meeting of the year, the council approved a $235,000 contract with Wilbur Smith Associates. This 12-month contract calls for the consulting firm to help the city devise an Edmond Plan Update Study that includes emphasis on east Edmond, Arcadia Lake development and a community park study.

“This clearly shows what the council has been talking about — of not playing catch up but to set in motion (advancements),” Naifeh said. “We want to do what is absolutely best for the city as a whole.”

Naifeh said 12 months is a quick schedule, but she believes it is necessary for the city to get ahead of development in east Edmond. City Planner Bob Schiermeyer will coordinate the project.

(Lisa Shearer may be reached via e-mail at lshearer@edmondsun.com.)

What is a TIF?

According to the Oklahoma Municipal League, a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District is an area within a community that is not likely to be redeveloped through private efforts. Within the designated district, a municipality can loan money for public improvements and construction. Once development of the property within the district occurs, the assessed value of that property increases. The ad valorem tax revenue produced by this increased value — the incremental increase or “increment” — is used to pay the eligible or public costs of the project, either directly or through the issuance of bonds.

In 2004, state voters approved State Question 707, which allowed cities to utilize TIF districts without a vote of district members every year. Instead, once approved, TIFs may be utilized for funding for the state-authorized 15-year time limit.

Who are Citizens for Edmond?

Membership for Citizens for Edmond is listed as Todd McKinnis, president; first vice president, J.W. Armstrong; second vice president, Pat Patterson and members Randy Allen, Ruth Boss, Don Chesser, Garland Cupp, Shannon Davies, Michael Galiga, Ed Gray, Steve Knox, Steve Kreidler, Pete Reeser and Barry Rice with Carl F. Reherman serving as executive director.

On Tuesday night, the group asked the Edmond City Council to begin looking at Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts as a way for new business to help fund needed infrastructure development within the city limits.

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