Louisiana House District 26 Rep. Herbert Dixon submitted the following commentary to The Light regarding his proposal for a Tax Increment District in Alexandria, La. These are his words as submitted.
Alexandria Riverfront Development District
By Herbert B. Dixon
For many years citizens in Alexandria have desired a prosperous and culturally enriched Riverfront District that would make us the envy of Louisiana. Congressmen in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s fought in Washington D.C. to fund a navigable Red River that would produce economic and recreational growth for communities adjacent to the waterway. They felt then, that areas like Alexandria, Pineville, and Marksville because of their proximity would be in position to encourage private and public ventures that would fulfill that desired need of creating a more prosperous downtown.
Alexandria’s political, civic leaders and organizations began to capitalize on the potential for our community. They collaborated and developed the Alexandria Riverfront Center, Coughlin- Saunders Performing Arts Center, Arna Bontemps African American Museum and Cultural Arts Center, improvements to the Alexandria Museum of Art, a performing pavilion overlooking the river, purchased property for the then Hilton Hotel downtown (now the Alexander Fulton Hotel), and many other improvements in anticipation of economic development.
The anticipated growth of the Riverfront area, with the prospect of improving communities around it did not happen. There was no follow-up economic development plan in place to capitalize on the groundwork laid. As a result, out migration, dilapidated houses and crime began to increase in the surrounding areas of the Riverfront District. Businesses began to move towards Jackson Street, MacArthur Drive and Highway 28 West.
The time had come, not only to revitalize the Alexandria Riverfront Area but also the Third Street and Willow Glen communities. After deliberation with elected officials, neighborhood organizations, investors and businessmen, the Hotel/Motel Association and other stakeholders, I filed House Bill 1094 that would provide for the creation of a Tax Increment Financing District (TIF) in the city of Alexandria.
What is Tax Increment Financing (TIF)? A TIF is an effective tool for local governments to finance capital infrastructure projects in support of economic development. TIF’s were originally designed and justified as a local method of self-financing the redevelopment of blighted urban areas (e.g., Third and Willow Glenn). There is not one active TIF district in Rapides Parish. HB 1094 would create the first active TIF district in Rapides Parish.
Why do we need this TIF instrument for economic development? Simply put, we have not seen investors flock to the Alexandria Riverfront District or South Alexandria in many years to improve the area. Why would you invest your monies in an economically-challenged geographic area when you can invest the same monies in a more, economically mature geographic area? This is the question that you should ask yourself but it is also the question that both local and out-of-the-area investors ask themselves when approached to invest in downtown Alexandria and Third and Willow Glenn.
How can we answer this question positively to entice investors to invest in downtown Alexandria and Third and Willow Glenn? When HB 1094 becomes law, we will be able to provide the following answer, “The Alexandria Riverfront District and Third and Willow Glenn are part of a special taxing district that has used tax increment financing to provide capital infrastructure improvements and other incentives to qualified investors willing to invest their dollars in this area. We have taken action to make investing in this area on par with investing in other more, economically mature, geographic areas.”
If you feel that the time has come to improve our Red River District with places to visit and businesses to support and if you want the same opportunity for Third and Willow Glen communities, please call, e-mail, and write elected officials and let them know that you support this effort.
Possible plans for the Red River District includes: a shopping center off Third Street where the Ruston Foundry is located and near I-49; a Water Park on the Casson Street side of Third Street; a Marina with a storage facility for 250 boats; a pedestrian friendly Boardwalk, Marina Riverfront Restaurant, and a Covered Performance Pavilion to name a few of the plans on the drawing board.
What will HB 1094 do for this area?
· Geographic Boundaries of the Riverfront Development District
(From O. K. Allen Bridge to Willow Glen Road)
· Purpose of the District
To provide for economic development within the Riverfront District
· 9-member Board with individual members appointed by:
§ City Council
§ Rapides Parish Police Jury
§ Alexandria City Economic Development District
§ Greater Alexandria Economic Development District
§ Central Louisiana Chamber of Commerce
§ Representative Herbert Dixon
§ Senator Joe McPherson
§ Selected by the other 8 members
· Responsibilities of Board
o Formulate a redevelopment plan or plans for the district and submit any plan to the Mayor for review and approval by the City Council.
o Formulate a program or programs to implement any redevelopment plan.
o Implement the plan or plans in a manner that encourages private development and promotes and coordinates public development.
- Possible Sources of Revenue: (A combination of one or more of the following)
NOTE: The legislation WILL NOT provide for an increase in property, sales or hotel occupancy tax rates over existing levels.
NOTE: No tax can be designated as part of the increment if theproceeds have been previously pledged as security for bonded indebtedness.
NOTE: The legislation shall not affect any school system, law enforcement agency or the Alexandria Convention and Visitors Bureau for any purpose, and no tax levied by any such entity may be included in any increment financing agreement.
- A facility use fee on the admission to or use of facilities located in the district if admission or use of a facility is available to the public.
- Ad valorem (property tax) financing on the increase in property tax revenue collected in the district over and above what was collected in the fiscal year prior to any increment financing agreement.
- Sales Tax financing on the increase in sale tax revenue collected in the district over and above what was collected in the fiscal year prior to any increment financing agreement.
- Hotel Occupancy tax financing on the increase in sale tax revenue collected in the district over and above what was collected in the fiscal year prior to any increment financing agreement.
- Key Point
The legislation will only designate the use of revenue for a general purpose – to provide for economic development within the Riverfront District. The legislation will not designate the use of any revenue for a specific private development project such as a hotel, restaurant, marina, etc. The Board will decide how the revenue is to be used.