County Commissioners met with attorney Erik Stumfell to learn more about the Tax Increment Financing law in the state of Maine on Monday. The reason they’re so curious, is because they’re looking into doing TIFs with a few proposed wind farm projects happening in the county – one in Oakfield, and the other at number nine mountain in unorganized territory just west of Bridgewater.
County Administrator Doug Beaulieu says, “this is an exercise in obtaining as much information as we can in order to move through methodically and in an appropriate sense.”
So what exactly is a TIF? It allows municipalities or county governments to use all or some of the new property taxes generated by an investment project — such as the wind farms — within a specific district to fund company project costs in support of business expansion, attraction, and retention of jobs, public improvements, and or municipal economic development programming. In other words, it’s an opportunity for the community to reap the benefits from big investments.
Beaulieu says, “there are statutory requirements that have to be met – they have to be approved by the state department of economic and community development and our projects would all be articulated as to what we were going to do with the money, so we’re not even close to having decided what we might want to do, we don’t even know if we want to do it.”
Though this meeting had nothing to do with whether or not the wind projects will happen, representatives from EDP Renewables — the company pursuing the wind farm project on number nine mountain were there to answer questions. Project Manager Katie Chapman says they’re hoping to start construction on the wind farm in 2015.
“We’ve heard a lot of good ideas from people on how we can improve the project and how we can move forward, we’re still doing a lot of community outreach so meeting with local town officials, meeting with community members and really anyone who’s interested in chatting,” says Chapman.
Beaulieu adds that if they decide to move forward with a TIF, they will then have to teach community members about TIF and explain how they’re planning to use the money.