By Michael Howell
The Ravalli County Commissioners are considering the establishment of two Tax Increment Financing Districts north of Hamilton. A proposed TIFD that would be zoned Light Industrial and partial residential would be located on land north of Fairgrounds Road that roughly corresponds to what the City of Hamilton designated as Area 3 in its growth policy. The second TIFD proposal would involve only a portion of the same area primarily extending north from Fairgrounds Road along Old Corvallis Road and along Fairgrounds Road between Highway 93 and the Eastside Highway. This area would be established as a Technology District designated to encourage the development of technology-related businesses.
According to Julie Foster, Director of the Ravalli County Economic Development Authority, since the proposal calls for establishing two districts, the cost of preparing the initial studies and Preliminary Engineering Reports for the necessary grant applications will be more than double the $30,000 cost of the recently established TIFD north of Stevensville. The total cost for the initial work on the districts near Hamilton is estimated to be about $70,000.
Foster told the Commissioners last week that there were two avenues for funding half those costs. One would be a grant through the Community Development Block Grant program and the other would be the Big Sky Trust Fund, depending on the timing of the application in relation to those grant cycles. Foster said the grant match requirement is 50%. In this case that would mean about $35,000. She said that a verbal commitment had been received from a few private landowners in the area, including the Bessenyey family, to contribute up to $10,000 for the project. That would leave the county covering about $25,000 of the match.
TIFDs are a way to dedicate future increases in tax revenue in a designated area back into the same area for infrastructure development.
The County Commissioners have been supportive of the idea of establishing a TIFD in the area and put $5,000 into a proposed district in cooperation with the City of Hamilton. City officials could not agree to support that effort and the funds were eventually returned.
According to Foster, the Commissioners gave a sympathetic ear to the proposal last week but balked at committing the funds.
“We kicked the can down the road a bit, until we can figure out where we can get the necessary funds,” said Commissioner Jeff Burrows. Burrows said that the proposal had merit, but the funding would have to be figured out before the County could commit to it.