Winnebago County Debates Tax Increment Financing Appropriation

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many Winnebago County residents, including those who are unemployed by the effects of the virus, are looking for a way to save what money they can, particularly during the holiday season. The Winnebago County Board of Supervisors reviewed the current state of Tax Increment Financing or TIF to see if there was a possibility for tax relief.

Winnebago County Auditor Karla Weiss first suggested the idea during a recent meeting of the board. TIF was put into place to tax wind turbine companies to help pay for and maintain roads in the county. The money generated from the tax would go to pay for loans taken out by the county for road maintenance and repair.

The county will see an estimated $4.4 million this year in excess revenue above the normal bi-annual payment made to the loan company. This became a source of debate between the board and Winnebago County Secondary Roads Engineer Scott Meinders who wanted to see that amount applied to his budget for road maintenance or debt repayment.

Supervisor Terry Durby explored the idea of paving the roads leading to Asmus Farms at what might amount to an estimated cost of $250,000 along with road work in other areas.

Meinders focused his point on the timber bridges that he felt needed to be replaced within the county. Weight limits on these bridges are far lower than those of concrete culverts which the county has been installing to help farmers move more easily between fields.

With the structure of the TIF as it is now, there may be more windfalls after loan payments are made. Meinders questioned whether windfall monies could be worked into a 1 or 5 year plan to repair roads or other road budget items.

Weiss stated that any possible projects should be included in a five year Urban Renewal Plan and that the county should adhere to it going forward.

Weiss also felt that by taking the estimated $4.4 million in windfall and applying it to the principle of the outstanding loans, the county could save the taxpayers money and reduce the burden on them by paying against the principle of the loans and reducing interest. Durby retorted that future TIF windfalls in the coming years might generate tax relief for Winnebago County taxpayers.

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