Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ketchum URA claim was misleading

As the chairman of the Ketchum Urban Renewal Agency, I am compelled to point out that Phyllis Shafran’s recent letter to the editor contains gross inaccuracies. Her quote, “By the time they (the bonds) are paid off in 2035, they will have cost us a total of close to $12 million.  And there is no money left for any improvements” is simply not based upon the facts.  

During our 2010 update of the URA plan, we hired an independent professional local government economic forecaster to analyze and project total URA increment collections through the life of the existing revenue allocation area.  Using a conservative projection of 1.7 percent annual growth, he projected total increment collections through September 2035 (the sunset of the revenue allocation area) to be $124,859,521.  Subtracting the $12,219,801 in debt service from this number leaves Ketchum’s net available revenue for improvements of $112,639,726. These are funds that otherwise would be redirected out of Ketchum and out of our community’s control.

 URAs are one of the only tools available to municipal governments to spur economic development and have been used successfully across the country since their inception during the Johnson administration.  The Ketchum City Council and Mayor Randy Hall exercised prescient judgment when they established the KURA in 2006. Without it we would not have Town Square, the award-winning Visitor Center, the Fourth Street Corridor, and high quality affordable housing currently under consideration.  

All of these great projects happened because of the hard work of our city’s leaders and dozens of community volunteer leaders along with the vision and generosity of private donors. Moreover, most of these projects were completed during the worst economic downturn in our collective lifetime, when dozens of other small towns across America were going bankrupt. Along with the Community Development Corporation (CDC) and City Council, KURA has accumulated an admirable list of accomplishments in its short life, a fact of which we can all be proud.

Finally, I would like to invite the entire community to our first “KURA Visioning Event” on Thursday evening, Nov. 8.  The purpose of the two-hour session is to take input from Ketchum’s community members about their how we best prioritize KURA’s projects over the coming years.  KURA commissioners and members of the CDC will be present to facilitate an educational and productive meeting.  I hope to see you there. 

Mark Eshman


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