House working to aid GE campus

January 29th, 2018

By Niki Kelly | The Journal Gazette

Northeast Indiana lawmakers have added language to a property tax bill that could aid the massive General Electric Co. campus project.

The measure would allow the City Council to establish a 50-year tax-increment financing district around the campus, which has been renamed Electric Works.

A TIF district requires that all new property tax revenue generated in the district be used to pay for infrastructure projects only within that district. GE's campus project will need road, sidewalk and other improvements.

Rep. Dan Leonard, R-Huntington, offered an amendment into House Bill 1104 based on a bill offered by Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne. The legislation has now moved to the full House.

“It's not going to make or break the project, but it adds another incentive to help,” Leonard said.

The ambitious $300 million project aims to transform the shuttered 39-acre GE campus into a retail, residential, commercial and educational center. Construction is scheduled to begin this year with the first portions opening in about two years. Indiana Tech is among its first confirmed tenants.

The TIF district is just one of many parts of an overall financial package for developers. City officials have worked with local lawmakers on the language, which affects only this project.

GiaQuinta said current law caps these districts at 25 years. But the GE language is for 50 years – providing more flexibility for longer bonding if necessary given the massive scope of the project.

He also said money from the district could be used to pay back the Legacy Fund or the local Capital Improvement Board for initial investments used to jump-start the project.

“We want all the tools to be available,” GiaQuinta said.

TIF districts divert millions of dollars from other taxing units that normally would receive the revenue, such as schools, libraries and other public services.

That is why Leonard will introduce additional language next week to ensure Fort Wayne Community Schools is not negatively affected.

It would require excess revenue not used for bonding to be funneled to the district.