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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Local Stimulus: Citywide TIF for Sidewalks!

Your tax dollars at work: the first completed garage in Madison's TIF district at South Grant Avenue and soon-to-be-named Silver Street. Includes attached house out back.
Stick with me on this one; it all leads to a darn good idea!

An eager reader forwards an invitation from the Madison Chamber of Commerce to an open house Thursday (tomorrow!) from 4 to 6:30 p.m. at the first completed home in Madison's tax increment finance (TIF) district. I would imagine developer Randy Schaefer will be there, along with the Lake Area Improvement Corporation officials who have been instrumental in moving the TIF project forward.

I don't know how open the open house is*, but I would think that Schaefer and the LAIC would be happy to have you all drop by, whether you are Chamber members or not, so they could thank you personally for making this successful project possible. After all, without Madison's willingness as a community to take on the debt burden to cover the infrastructure costs for this development, and without your collective willingness to forego the increased tax revenues from the development to pay off that debt rather than to fund other public projects, the Silver Creek Circle development would still be just a pile of dirt. Instead we have two nice garages (with houses out back) and more surely to come.

So with our first TIF district already showing signs of paying off, I got to wondering if another TIF might be good for the city. Should we wangle another TIF to reduce costs for another developer and boost more housing? Or is there some other critical public need that a TIF might serve?
SE 4th Street, south side: no continuous sidewalk!
And then it hit me: sidewalks. The TIF district doesn't have them yet (got to get all the other work done first). But neither does the south side of Southeast 4th Street, the main thoroughfare Silver Creek Circle residents will proudly stroll every day on their way to pick up a pizza at Casey's. Neither do a number of streets all over Madison.

The city commission has a timetable for getting sidewalks implemented one street and neighborhood at a time. They did a little along Division Avenue last year; I think some streets between campus and the high school are due this year.

But why dink around? Why not get every street in Madison sidewalked up right now, this summer, right when there are a lot of unemployed folks who could use some work?

Declare the whole darn town a Sidewalk Tax Increment Finance district—a STIF!

No, really, I'm serious. Have the city float the loan for building every inch of sidewalk that remains to be built in Madison. The city makes the funds available to homeowners, with STIF money covering the full cost if you hire locally or do it yourself and half the cost if you hire out-of-towners (those figures are negotiable). The construction guys in town go ape hiring workers to dig and pour and trowel all summer long. Unemployment drops to 1%, at least for a few months. We pay off the STIF loan with the increased property tax revenue that will come from those newly sidewalked and thus more valuable properties all over town.

Plus, everyone in Madison walks more, lives longer... and works up a bigger appetite for DQ Blizzards!

STIF Districts: local economic stimulus, long-term infrastructure, lower costs for homeowners... this is the best dang plan I've come up with this year! Someone call Commissioner-Elect Abraham! He'll eat this up!

Update 18:50 CDT: Sure enough, it's open to the public, or so I'd assume from Elisa Sand's article in tonight's MDL. 4:00–6:30 p.m., Thursday, April 23, 530 "Silver Creek Circle"—drop in, shake hands, and tell Jason and Corey good work on the building!


  1. There are so many things wrong about calling any part of Madison a STIF District, but I love it, and tomorrow morning I'm going to see Randy Johnson about getting a STIF Loan.

  2. Go on in and tell Johnson you want to get STIF-ed. See how that goes.

    Keep throwing those ideas out there, Corey!

  3. I'd like to see someone apply for a loan to put a new bar downtown and call it STIF Drink. Maybe Ron Beckman will do something with that idea.

  4. There is some curiosity as to who gets paid for what on building these homes.

    If LAIC pays for the houses and pays Randy Schaffer for his lots, when does LAIC get their money back, and how is this taxpayer TIF deal paid back?

    Does Schaffer have to pay back from the sale of the lots or do the taxes pay. Sounds like a mess.


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