Thiensville TIF getting ready to close
District is second oldest in Wisconsin

By Gary Achterberg - News Graphic Staff

Feb. 13, 2018

THIENSVILLE — Village Board members took initial steps last week toward closing the village’s Tax Incremental Finance district, which is the second-oldest in Wisconsin.

The village formed the district in 1985 to spur development in its downtown. It was supposed to expire in 2013, but was declared “distressed” in 2010, allowing an extension in its sunset date.

The village took advantage of a new state law at the time, which allowed it to keep the TIF open so it could continue to repay its general fund for payments that had been made when the TIF was not performing as well as expected.

That wasn’t, however, the case later in its life. Development started to blossom and the TIF became productive. Thiensville paid off its TIF debt from its general fund and, once the district started generating money, that money has been repaid to the general fund with interest.

The village has earmarked those payments for capital projects, including road work and the Pigeon Creek flood control project. With the TIF closing, village officials no longer will be able to rely on the flow of TIF income. In recent years, those payments have accounted for approximately half of the $1 million-or-so annual capital projects budget.

That means the village likely will have to wait longer and save additional funds prior to undertaking future projects. Thiensville is one of just a handful of municipalities in Wisconsin that does not borrow for big-ticket projects, such as road improvements.

When trustees met Feb. 5 as the Committee of the Whole, they gave preliminary approval to hiring the public finance firm Ehlers to handle the details of closing the TIF. Ehlers will charge $2,000 to handle a variety of closure details and produce a projected impact report on the TIF’s closure on the future tax levy.

Trustees are expected to take final action when they meet again Monday as the Village Board.

Village Administrator Dianne Robertson said the TIF district is expected to close in April. By the time the village settles with other taxing districts – the county, the school district and Milwaukee Area Technical College – the final closure will occur by Sept. 1.

TIF districts are used across Wisconsin and in many other states to spark economic development. A municipality spends money to promote development in an area where it would not otherwise occur Any resulting development will increase the tax base. Other taxing jurisdictions agree to forego the increase in property tax revenues so that the municipality can use it exclusively to repay the cost of public improvements.