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More than $171 million in taxes intended for local schools, community colleges, parks, libraries, local governments and other millages were diverted through tax increment financing (TIF) from 2004 to 2014 to two dozen downtown development authorities (DDA) in Oakland County.
Yet, when it comes to knowing what a DDA or TIF is and how they work, the majority of taxpayers are simply left in the dark.
"What we hear from the residents is, 'you're taking our money,' said Clawson DDA director Joan Horton. "What some don't understand is that with a TIF, we are keeping that money in the community that would be going off to the county and spread out to other taxing authorities. That is something that benefits the community as a whole.
"They truly don't understand the amount of funds that would leave if we didn't have a DDA. About 60 percent of our funding is from TIF, and that is money that would leave if we didn't have it."
|Funds diverted from taxing authorities to DDA tax increment financing areas (click for larger version)|
Granted with the ability to collect taxes and other sources of revenue, a downtown development authority is a taxing entity intended to help support a community's downtown area by diverting property taxes from local sources and reinvesting the funds back into the downtown from where they were collected. That means taxes collected for local schools, community colleges, governments and other taxing jurisdictions are instead used for capital improvement projects in a downtown district.
Utilizing this tax increment financing mechanism, some DDAs have been able to transform their downtowns into booming economic districts. In Ferndale, the DDA was able to decrease vacancy rates in the downtown area from 30 percent to about two percent over the past decade, along with more than $68 million in public/private investment. In northwest Oakland County, the small village of Holly has boosted occupancy rates from 50 percent to nearly 100 percent in the past five years.
"By and large, they have been beneficial. They really support economic development in their districts," Dan Hunter, deputy director of Oakland County Economic Development and Community Affairs, said about the 25 downtown development authorities in existence in the county. "Downtown Ferndale or Rochester, those are two shining stars out there, and Holly. By and large, they have helped with infrastructure, marketing and events in their respective areas."
Currently, there are 25 DDAs in the county, according to Oakland County Economic Development and Community Affairs, including DDAs in Auburn Hills; Berkley; Clawson; Commerce Township; Farmington; Ferndale; Hazel Park; Highland Township; Holly Village; Lake Orion Village; Lathrup Village; Lyon Township; Madison Heights; Milford Village; Ortonville; Oxford Village; Pleasant Ridge; Rochester; Royal Oak; Royal Oak Township; Southfield; South Lyon; Troy; Walled Lake; and Wixom....continued on page 2