Marble Falls to continue looking into TIFs for revitalization

MARBLE FALLS — City officials and downtown merchants want to continue exploring a narrowly targeted tax-financing tool that could even be used to help Main Street’s revitalization.

The Economic Development Corp. is looking at a possible tax-increment financing zone, or TIF, that taxes properties in a designated area and spends a portion of those monies on repairing or building infrastructure.

Other Texas cities have used TIFs for years to fund improvements, but the concept is relatively new to Marble Falls.

A presentation on TIFs had to be rescheduled Sept. 5 after a speaker was unable to attend the EDC meeting.

Still, others at the session had some thoughts on the concept. Officials have said in the past one area that could benefit from a TIF would be the city’s Historic Main Street District, which has the potential to draw more visitors.

“One question that we’re trying to grapple with, and where somebody with some expertise in doing TIFs can help, is the ‘blight’ determination, and how substantial that is in factoring in whether you can do a TIF or not,” said Christian Fletcher, the EDC’s executive director.

Fletcher added that “blighted areas” equal a substantial amount of public sidewalks that are in disrepair or undeveloped or under-developed property.

“The blight concern is subject to interpretation,” Fletcher said. “We need to look at the history of TIFs that have been created.”

According to models in other cities, as a site’s value increases, sales taxes and even the availability of jobs may improve.

A couple of merchants who own multiple properties in the Main Street area believe a TIF could give a boost to downtown, but they want more answers about how the money will be spent.

“I think it could be a useful tool. My question would be, how much can be raised through this?” said Russell Buster, who oversees a number of downtown properties including the Uptown Marble Theater at Third and Main streets.  “I have a general curiosity about how we would use the proceeds from a TIF.”

Grant Dean, a commercial business owner whose properties include a strip mall on Third just off Main that includes Darci’s Deli, Restorative Skin Care and A.J.’s Alehouse, said he also wants to know more.

“I’ve re-done a number of buildings down here. I want to follow the progression of it (TIFs),” Dean said. ” I do think it would be beneficial. I do feel like it will be a benefit to downtown businesses.”

Officials said a TIF does not have taxing powers, however, improvements made to a defined area could affect the amount of taxes paid by merchants or residents within the zone.

The next EDC meeting is Oct. 4, on a Thursday. EDC meetings normally are the first Wednesday of the month.

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