Some Taxpayers Upset Over Proposed Bond

By: Kristen Cosby
By: Kristen Cosby

October 11, 2005
It’s a funding feud. A billion dollar development is coming to Aiken County and its developers want it to be funded by something called Tax Increment Funding, or TIF. If TIF doesn’t work out it could end up costing taxpayers a lot of money. But developers say, passing TIF could mean an economic boom. News 12 is on your side to break down the dispute.

A TIF is a bond that the people living in this new development will pay for with their taxes. It pays for roads and sewer service. 28 percent of their taxes will pay off the debt over the next 20 years. What’s left of their tax dollars will pay for services like schools and police. But if the leftover tax dollars don’t cover those services, the rest of the county taxpayers have to foot the bill. And that could mean a tax increase.

In order for a TIF to pass, the county council and the school board must approve it. If the school board doesn’t vote yes or no, it passes by default. Sound confusing? That’s why two men in Aiken County are fighting this TIF.

Bob Deering’s company, Finedeering, is building two neighborhoods in Aiken County. And he wants the development’s streets and water to be paid for by Tax Increment Financing, or TIF.

“The biggest advantage for the taxpayer is that these properties that are in the TIF district will get developed faster,” Deering said.

And that could mean faster tax revenue as people move here and start paying property taxes. But at what risk?

That’s what worries Ed Giobee and Bob White. They’ve launched a crusade against TIF.

“Mixing private profit with public money is always an extremely slippery slope,” Giobee said.

Giobee and White worry that if the development isn’t successful, homeowners won’t generate enough money to pay back TIF and pay for needed services. That’s when taxpayers countywide would pick up the bill.

“They’ve made it quite clear we’re going forward with or without the TIF. All they’re asking is to ride on the backs of the poor county taxpayer,” White said.

Giobee and White’s solution: Finedeering can pay for the streets themselves. But Deering says that will make his homes cost more and his development less competitive. He says if TIF doesn’t pass, his neighborhoods will not be the same.

“The development if it occurred at all would be at a much slower pace and would be at a much different and lower quality,” Deering said.

Giobee and White think the tax dollars will come either way, and now they’re looking for you to join their cause.

“The people who put this together planned on taxpayer apathy and lack of interest, we’re going to slip this through without a taxpayer response and what I’m appealing is for taxpayer response,” White said.

Again, the Aiken County Council and School Board have the final say on this. Tuesday at 7:00 at the school board, Giobee and White will present details about why they’re upset. The owners of Finedeering say they’ll also be there to answer questions. But the most important meeting is next Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. That’s when the county council will vote yes or no on the TIF.

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