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School district to benefit from the closure of a TIF

Dec. 18, 2013

The payout of a special taxing district is likely to mean a windfall of $2.5 million to $4 million for the Wauwatosa School District in about two years, City Finance Director John Ruggini said.

Tax-incremental financing district No. 2 is expected to close in 2015. The TIF district includes Research Park and a chunk of Innovation Campus.

As the city built roads and buried utility pipes in the district, private buildings in Research Park sprang up over almost 20 years, and, more recently, the city's investment in Discovery Parkway is providing access to the ABB building, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's business accelerator building and developments yet to come, including the Mandel Group's planned apartment complex surrounding the Eschweiler buildings, a proposed hotel and more.

The value of the property within the district when it began in 1994 was about $4.4 million. Today, it's worth about $190 million, with property tax revenue increasing proportionally. The city has captured the increase in taxes for all that time, paying itself back for the money it spent on infrastructure — and collecting more than it needed, Ruggini said.

So the taxing districts that contribute to a Wauwatosa property tax bill, — the city, Milwaukee County, Milwaukee Area Technical College, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District and the state of Wisconsin — will all benefit as the city pays out the excess taxes it collected.

A benefit to the schools

But none will benefit more than the school district, which takes the largest share of property taxes. If the payout comes in at the high end of Ruggini's estimate — $4 million — it would represent 5 percent of the school district's annual budget of about $80 million.

School Superintendent Phil Ertl said he will welcome the money.

"It's not something you can look at for ongoing expenses; it's kind of one-time money," he said. "If you look at the facilities proposal that went forward, and look at the list of how many millions of dollars of those different facilities upgrades and things that are needed" — well, it won't cover it all. But it will help.

Or, maybe, as Ertl added, it'll help the district's fund balance.

Lots of work

The district plans to spend $1.5 million to $2 million in the next school year on a handful of projects, but Ertl's long-term list has almost 120 items at a total estimated cost of almost $19 million.

Some of the projects are as basic as roof and window replacements, masonry repairs, electrical fixes and new floors.

Ertl noted that this year the district received a check for about $150,000 from the closure of a smaller TIF district, surrounding the former site of the Camelot Motel at 109th Street and Bluemound Road.

In addition to TIF No. 2, and the closed Camelot site, the city has four other active TIF districts.

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