Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Ohio 63 not dead yet


Fox proposes new way to finance failed highway extension

By John Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON - Butler County Commissioner Michael A. Fox laid out plans Tuesday for using tax receipts from future subdivisions to revive a project to extend Ohio 63 west from Monroe to Trenton.

Fox estimates that $33 million could be collected from proposed subdivisions in Trenton and Monroe through tax increment financing, a development tool that uses property taxes generated by a development to pay for infrastructure improvements.

But there's a catch: The county needs Monroe and Trenton officials to create the tax-increment financing districts - because the county has no authority to do it in a municipality - and give the funds to the county.

And there's another snag: The county must convince the Ohio Department of Transportation to restore the $27.7 million allocation for Ohio 63, which was withdrawn in December because the county lacked matching funds for the $58 million project. County Engineer Greg Wilkens had said in December that the highway was dead without state funding.

Trenton City Manager Patrick Titterington and Council Member Rhoda Freeze expressed an interest in working with the county on the project, which would provide their residents and major employer, Miller Brewing Co., direct access to Interstate 75. Monroe was not represented at the meeting.

Fox said tax increment financing from subdivisions already platted would generate $14.3 million in Trenton and $18.6 million in Monroe. Creating such tax districts on future residential areas is a new twist on the law that has allowed cities, townships and counties to use growth from commercial and industrial land to fund infrastructure improvements.

By creating the districts before homes are sold local governments can more easily meet a new requirement by Ohio Tax Commissioner William W. Wilkins. In a reversal of state policy, Wilkins now demands that every property owner agree to be placed in a tax-increment financing district.

County staffers are researching whether the county can mandate that residential developers sign a tax increment financing agreement as a condition for approval for platting a subdivision, Fox said.

E-mail jkiesewetter@enquirer.com




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