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Mon Commission, Granville officials discuss TIF extension

MORGANTOWN — “But for.” Two words, six letters.  

But in the parlance of tax increment financing, or TIF, districts, the phrase looms large.  

The “but for” test requires a government entity, like a county commission, to determine that but for the creation of a TIF district, desired development would not occur. 

Monongalia County Commission President Tom Bloom said the phrase also applies to the town of Granville as it pertains to town officials questioning a proposed extension of the sales tax and property tax districts that comprise the Monongalia County Economic Opportunity Development District — think University Town Centre from Walmart to Exit 153, The Gateway and WestRidge. 

Bloom said as much during a work session Wednesday with Granville Mayor Patty Lewis and Recorder Mary Beth Renner.  

As mentioned, the EODD includes  a TIF (property tax) and a STIF (sales tax) district. 

It’s the property tax component that Granville has issues with. 

The TIF district was originally created in 2012 with a 30-year life span. The proposed extension would add 15 years to the life of the district, extending it to 2057. 

At the implementation of a TIF district, a property tax base is set. For the life of the district, some levying bodies — in this instance the county, Granville and Westover — receive their share of that base number while any increase, or increment, that comes as a result of improvements goes back into infrastructure development for the district.  

Granville Mayor Patty Lewis said that’s currently about $510,000 annually in property taxes that her town is missing out on. Extending the district, she continued, means millions to Granville. 

Further, Lewis, explained, there’s a feeling within the town that despite Granville’s central role in the original TIF district, which resulted in everything beyond Walmart down to Exit 153, the town has largely been left out of the conversation as the district has expanded across I-79. 

Bloom responded by pointing out that Granville and its residents have benefited from the district as much as or more than anyone. 

It’s been pointed out that in the decade since the district’s creation, Granville’s municipal budget has jumped 162%, from $2,917,311 in the 2012-13 fiscal year to $7,651,070 in the current fiscal year. 

But for, Bloom said. 

“When we had that initial meeting, we made it very clear … we’re going to start over in your area, which was the lower part from Walmart down. We said you would be getting funds before everyone else, but we made it clear that you get portion A, but this is B, C, D, E and F, and all that money would go so everyone was a part of it,” Bloom said. “Everyone was in this together.”  

Tom Aman, bond counsel for the county, explained the town does receive all property taxes and any future property tax increases for everything between Chaplin Hill Road and Walmart.  

Further, he said, the town could leverage the entire Granville portion of the district through implementation of something like an excess levy or the implementation of a municipal sales tax. 

Lewis said town officials are exploring the state’s Home Rule program with a sales tax in mind. That’s being done in the hope of offsetting future elimination of business and occupation taxes like those recently cut from automotive sales.   

The Monongalia County Commission will have a public hearing on the proposed district extensions as part of its regular June 7 meeting. 

Members of the commission took exception to Lewis insinuating passage of the matter is a foregone conclusion. 

“Well, OK, I’ll correct that, then,” Lewis responded. “We have no say. It’s up to you three gentlemen if this is extended.” 

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