Friday, July 18, 2008

Bellevue urban renewal agency provides meager funding in first round

Express Staff Writer

Bellevue Planning and Zoning Administrator Craig Eckles helped the city form an urban renewal agency to fund municipal projects Photo by David N. Seelig

The city of Bellevue will receive the first proceeds in 2009 from an urban renewal agency formed in December of 2007. Approximately $2,700 will come to the city in two installments in January and July of next year.

"We knew the tax increment financing would perhaps be minimal for the first several years," said planning and zoning administrator Craig Eckles, referring to the downturn in the real estate market. "The figures have absolutely met with our projections.

The URA was designed to raise money over the next 24 years for city improvements based on a projected increase in property values in the downtown area. Eventual proceeds will be used to implement a long-term program of redevelopment and revitalization downtown and along the Big Wood River. The first installments will only cover the administrative costs of establishing the URA.

Eckles said in December that the Bellevue URA project costs will be financed by several means, including annual "revenue allocation funds" and bond proceeds. "Under the Urban Renewal Agency plan no new taxes will be assessed to property owners," Eckles said. "This is only a shift. The agency will allow us to raise money through other funding mechanisms."

All current City Council members as well as former council President Vivian Ivie were appointed by Mayor Jon Anderson as commissioners on the agency.

Planned projects under the URA include improving parking, lighting and streets, modernizing city infrastructure, and updating sewer services.

Typically, URAs seek to collect the "increment," or the increase in value from one year to the next, from properties within the URA boundaries. The method captures new growth values—meaning money—that otherwise would go to taxing entities such as the city, county, and cemetery, recreation, ambulance and fire districts. School districts are exempt.

The Bellevue URA will depend upon increases in the 2007 assessed property valuation of a designated Revenue Allocation Area—which covers 77 city blocks of downtown Bellevue—estimated at that time to be worth nearly $360,000,000. The assessed valuation of real and personal property in the area beginning on Jan. 1, 2007, can provide for developer loans and other funding mechanisms for redevelopment projects, city officials said.

Once the projects are completed and any bonds and loans are repaid, the increases in assessed value of real and personal property in the Revenue Allocation Area could become available for use by other taxing entities, city officials noted.

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