Boss Hays at work | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Boss Hays at work

Posted By on Tue, Dec 23, 2008 at 6:47 AM

I couldn't outlast last night's five-hour NLR Council meeting for the bottom line -- that Mayor Pat Hays put off a vote on his school property tax grab to seek further legal advice on the flim-flam.

He now hopes few will turn out on New Year's Eve when he expects his Council stooges, including very lame ducks, to ratify whatever scheme he ultimately cooks up. It will come no more than seven hours under the wire in annexing school property taxes from The Enclave apartments -- completed and occupied -- to finance a parking deck for a private hotel developer five blocks away.

I don't think he can make it legal, no matter what. But even if he does, it is wrong. Tax Increment Finance districts such as that in which The Enclave sits are created to provide public benefits to encourage a private development. In return, some of the new property taxes are siphoned off to repay a public investment. The process is turned upside down here by Hays. The apartments were built without public help. They didn't need it. Now they are about to go on the tax books. Minutes before it would be clear the city has no colorable claim on the money, Hays plans to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars the needy schools are about to receive annually to educate children (including some in the new apartments, most likely) to spend elsewhere. W-R-O-N-G

Yes, I know. Downtown development would be good for the city. It might create new sales tax revenue (none of which goes to directly to NLR schools). But, as good as this might sound to people in the Argenta neighborhood, that is NOT the legal standard by which tax money can be diverted from public schools. If it was, the greedy developers would insure there was no school tax money left at all.

D-G didn't report this, but the NLR Daily News blog linked above notes that the neighboring Wyndham Hotel and owner Frank Fletcher have joined the fray and attorney Sam Hilburn's voice has been added to that of the NLR School Board in suggesting a legal challenge is possible to this misbegotten TIF scheme. They are not alone.

And speaking of wrong: One of Mayor Hays' wired votes on the Council is outgoing Alderman John Parker. Over multiple objections, Hays appointed him to the Planning Commission last night while he still sat on the Council. Parker naturally voted for himself. Ah, Dogtown.

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