Favorite

The law and North Little Rock 

North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays is a can-do executive with laudable achievements.

But no one should envy his disdain for the law. It's one thing to prevaricate and cut corners to provide public land for private parking at the baseball park, as Hays has done. But it's another to flout the Constitution and statute to divert school tax money to build a hotel parking deck.

Developers want to build a hotel at Broadway and Maple. They want the city to build the parking deck. No problem, says Mayor Hays. He'll put the hotel property in a tax increment finance district. That freezes the value of the land for tax purposes at its undeveloped rate. The taxes from the increased value of the property when the hotel is built can be diverted by law to pay off parking deck bonds issued in the name of the TIF district.

This is a straight-up application of the TIF process, in which tax money is used to provide infrastructure for a project that wouldn't be built but for a public investment.

But that's not where it ends. Hays is working on a scheme to capture the post-improvement level taxes on two other unrelated and geographically unconnected TIF districts to help finance the parking deck. The districts for the Argenta Place development on Main Street, a block from the hotel site, and The Enclave apartments, nearly six blocks away, were created in 2006. But no TIF project was ever put in motion in either place. Improvements were made without need of public contributions. The property will go on the tax books in 2009 at its higher value.

But Hays is hungry to divert increased taxes (virtually all of which benefit schools) from the two completed projects. The Enclave apartments are particularly critical. Valued for TIF purposes at $2.7 million, the project is for sale for $38 million. It's probably worth about $30 million. The $27 million swing in valuation would produce a hefty $90,000 a year in taxes to pay off parking deck bonds.

I don't think the law allows this. The state statute says redevelopment districts must be contiguous. Hays wants to combine revenue flow from three disconnected districts. He also is hurrying to approve this scheme before the end of the year, when the higher property values take effect and would be lost for TIF purposes.

Hays has a big constitutional problem. The TIF amendment says clearly that redevelopment districts may only be used for projects WITHIN the district. The legislature has tried to legislate around this, but the Supreme Court generally disproves legislative rewrites of the Constitution.

Forget the legalities. TIF bonds are supposed to be floated to spur redevelopment of blighted areas. Hays wants to take school tax money already set to flow from redeveloped, non-blighted areas. This perverts the spirit of the law. It's nothing more than a flimflam to produce money the mayor can't produce by straightforward means, such as a parking improvement district financed by all beneficiaries' property taxes. He prefers to steal kids' school lunch money.

That kind of leadership we don't need on either side of the Arkansas River. Nor is the example a good one for the TIF grifters lurking throughout Arkansas.

Favorite

Sign up for the Daily Update email

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Now, the main event

    I write Tuesday morning, before polls close on primary and judicial election contests.
    • May 24, 2018
  • Police identify remains as those of Ebby Steppach

    KARK/Fox 16 reports that Little Rock police have identified skeletal remains found Tuesday in a west Little Rock park as those of Ebby Steppach, the 17-year-old who's been missing since her car was found in that park abandoned in 2015.
    • May 23, 2018
  • UAMS presents balanced budget

    UAMS, pressed by financial problems for several years, told the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees today that it had a $1.5 billion operating budget that doesn't call for deficit spending.
    • May 23, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Double-talk

    A couple of instances of doublespeak cropped up in Little Rock over the weekend.
    • Jun 29, 2017
  • Along the civil rights trail

    A convergence of events in recent days signaled again how far we have come and how far we have yet to go in civil rights.
    • Jan 18, 2018
  • The Oval outhouse

    One thing all Americans finally can agree upon is that public discourse has coarsened irretrievably in the era of Donald Trump and largely at his instance.
    • Jan 18, 2018

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Now, the main event

    I write Tuesday morning, before polls close on primary and judicial election contests.
    • May 24, 2018
  • Are you being served?

    These aren't good times for confidence in public servants.

    • Mar 22, 2018
  • Send in the segs

    The state Board of Education last week rejected requests from Camden Fairview, Hope, Lafayette County and Junction City to be exempt from the state law requiring students to be able to freely transfer between school districts.
    • Mar 15, 2018
  • More »

Most Viewed

  • Trade places

    I confess that over the years I've wished a fall from grace upon a number of people. I've come to call it the "Trading Places Award." The recipient is someone who has shown no compassion or empathy for someone else in a tough situation.
  • Now, the main event

    I write Tuesday morning, before polls close on primary and judicial election contests.
  • Like wrestling

    So what's it going to be, America: a democratic republic, or Trumpistan? A nation governed by the rule of law, or an oversized kleptocracy, whose maximum leader uses the decayed shell of government to punish his political enemies and reward friends and family?

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Like wrestling

    • Great reminder/summary. So much happens in Trumpistan that last week's news seems like months ago…

    • on May 23, 2018
  • Re: Talking baseball

    • I loved Bill Elder "calling" the Travs games on the road. He did it by…

    • on May 22, 2018
  • Re: Talking baseball

    • 1090 was Little Rock's own Mighty 1090 KAAY, the greatest radio station ever. But i…

    • on May 22, 2018
 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation