TIF Commission Fails To Recommend Shrewsbury Walmart

The Shrewsbury Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Commission went out with a whimper rather than a bang Wednesday night, Jan. 10, as members were unable to make a recommendation on the one question before them: the proposal to put a $43-million Walmart Supercenter on the grounds of the derelict Kenrick Shopping Center.

The issue now goes to the Shrewsbury Board of Aldermen, members of which previously indicated strong approval. The vote is expected at a special work session for Jan. 23. The absence of a recommendation from the TIF commission means a two-thirds majority is required from the aldermen for passage.

The commission deadlocked 6-6 on a resolution to recommend approval of the project, with amendments proposed by the Affton School District. The commissioners voted down the original, unamended version of the resolution, 3-9.

The school district’s chief interest is that the bonds issued to finance the project be paid off as quickly as possible, said Superintendent Steve Brotherton. He said under TIF rules, the district’s real estate tax revenue from the Kenrick property would be frozen at the current level (about $173,000 a year) until the bonds are retired, in about 23 years.

The city would derive about $560,000 a year in sales tax from the project, beginning when the shopping center opens in 2015, according to figures presented to the commission by representatives of project developer G.J. Grewe Inc. All of that money would flow to the city; none to the school district.

About 200 residents filled the ballroom of the Shrewsbury City Hall Wednesday to express their opinions on the project. Several speakers, including Shrewsbury Alderman Dee Wiecher, 2nd Ward, lambasted the state TIF laws, and Walmart, alleging unfairness in providing tax breaks to wealthy corporate developers while depleting needed revenue for schools.

Others, including former County Councilman Kurt Odenwald, argued that the Walmart proposal is Shrewsbury’s last best chance to remedy its revenue problems. The city has been beset by operating deficits since the economy went into recession in 2008.

Mayor Felicity Buckley said she still supports the TIF proposal and hopes to see the required two-thirds majority supporting the plan when it comes before the board of aldermen.

Originally published January 4, 2013 in the South County Times.

Article by Dennis Hannon

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