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Marion creates new district to spur residential growth

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MARION (WSIL) -- Marion is trying a new tactic in its ongoing efforts to improve and revitalize residential areas in the southeast section of town.

On Monday, the city approved its first Residential Tax increment financing (TIF) district as another tool to move the city forward.

"Our number one goal is to help those folks that own their own home," said Chief Of Staff Cody Moake. He adds that the city already has close to 14 TIF districts on the books, but those have focused on improvements at a commercial level.

"A lot of those other TIF districts have prompted past city leaders in doing, was to inject those dollars, those incremental dollars that the city was able to capture, into infrastructure projects."

Now the city is working towards that same idea with residential neighborhoods.  The new TIF District covers older, and under-developed sections of Marion to help spur growth.

"The increment that is created from those new developments will then be circulated back in to some of these older neighborhoods through grants or low interest loans," said Moake.

For those grants and loans to become available, the district needs residents to start investing in their homes. Mayor Mike Absher said the TIF allows the amount of payments to schools and utilities to freeze at the previously assessed value, with the difference from a re-assessed value to enter into the TIF fund.

"Until there's any new growth, there's no new funds, there's no new money," said Absher, adding that over time new development would kick-start a cycle of reinvesting in the district.

He said the city still has work to do in conducting surveys of the new district to identify the most important work first and move forward from there.

"We want to reinvest in these neighborhood. We want to make it affordable and attractive for people to move here," said Absher. "That's exactly what we hope is the effect of this TIF district."

Absher adds that TIF does not raise property taxes and is NOT a new tax on the district. The city held a series of public hearings over the past six months to address concerns, and Moake said the TIF board would practice due-diligence before approving applications.

"There are a lot of concerns out there, but please understand that our goal here is to support these properties and again, breathe some life back into this neighborhood that was one of the original neighborhoods here in town and not a whole lot of attention has been paid to it since then," said Moake.

Marion concluded that the area covered by the new TIF district would not improve on its own without help. Absher said district residents can find more information on TIF and help applying at City Hall.

Joe Rehana

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