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State shorts funding of TID for '10
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MONROE - The state government has underpaid the city's Tax Increment District 7 fund for 2010, and that's causing uncertainty about handling applications and approvals for the city's facade grant program downtown.

The state miscalculated its growth funding to TID 7 because it used a value that actually is $2.5 million below what property in the district is assessed at. Monroe Mayor Ron Marsh talked about the underfunding Tuesday at the City of Monroe Historic Preservation Commission meeting.

Marsh said the amount underfunded can't be determined until the city knows its tax rate.

TIDs are funded with property taxes paid on any value above what a property was assessed at when the district was created. As property values increase, due to infrastructure investments and other eligible projects, the increase in taxes collected are reinvested in the district. The amounts to municipalities, schools and the county remain unchanged until the TID is terminated.

Monroe's TID 7 was created in 2006 with a 21-year life span.

Sue Disch, commission secretary, said she is concerned about approving facade grant applications on anticipation of the funding.

"Are we going to get it in 2010 or 2011? We don't know," she said.

Marsh suggested the commission let the applications come in, dated and approved, and be allowed to "set on the chairman's book" until funds become available.

But Dave Haroldson, HPC vice chairman, asked whether the commission should limit the number of applications.

Members discussed the problems applicants may face if their requests are approved and the money doesn't come in on time. Applicants have one year to complete the facade work, after approval, in order to receive the grant money.

Disch questioned what an applicant would face while waiting for approval if the guidelines changed. Member Jan Lefevre also noted that some people can't afford to wait on a reimbursement from the grant.

According to Monroe Main Street Director Barb Nelson, three or four facade grant applications have been approved, for funding expected next year.

Facade grants are limited to 50 percent of the cost of work, to a maximum of $10,000.

The facade grant program should be receiving about $35,000 for 2010. The program expects to see its largest funding, about $75,000 annually, in 2016 and 2017.

Marsh said the program already has approved about $100,000 in grants, although it has received only $74,000 in the past three years.

"You can't spend money you don't have," Marsh said of the TID 7 projects.

Marsh also pointed out that the streetscape project of about $1.9 million does not start to collect any TID funds until 2011. The city went out for bonds on the complete streetscape and sewer and water replacement projects, which totaled more than $4 million.

The commission will continue the facade grant funding discussion at its next meeting Dec. 15.