Still waiting on City Council's plate is proposal to spend $1.3M on additional downtown improvements

LACONIA — While the City Council this week approved the recommendation of the Advisory Board of the Downtown Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District to fund improvements at the Main Street bridge over the Winnipesaukee River, it deferred a decision on six other projects proposed by the board. City Manager Scott Myers said yesterday that he expected the council to address those recommendations by September.

After the so-called "Gateway Plaza" at the bridge, the Advisory Committee, recommended constructing the ramp to carry the riverwalk past the Landmark Inn for $181,000, completing the section of the riverwalk behind Walgreen's for $121,800, building a pocket park at the junction of Water Street and Pleasant Street for $290,000, extending the riverwalk from City Hall to Church Street for $300,000, beginning phase 2 of the WOW Trail between Main Street and Fair Street for $400,000 and erecting a kiosk with signage to the WOW Trail and riverwalk near the library for $25,000. Altogether these projects are estimated to cost $1,317,800.

The effect of these projects would be to complete the stretch of riverwalk along the north bank of the Winnipesaukee River from the Fair Street Bridge to the Church Street Bridge, except for the crossing of Beacon Street West. Planning Director Shanna Saunders said that the connection would be made when Chinburg Builders completes the commercial development planned at the Beacon Street West Condominiums. Ultimately a second stretch of riverwalk is planned to extend along the southern bank of the river and join the first at the two bridges to form a continuous loop.

The Advisory Board proposes to fund these projects with a borrowing serviced by the revenue from the TIF District, which consisted of 287 properties spread over 145.5 acres with an aggregate assessed value of $70.3-million when the district was established in 2004. Tax increment financing consists of delineating TIF districts, then applying half of the future property tax revenues that accrue from the increase in assessed value generated by new construction, expansion or renovation of property in the district to service borrowings used to fund public improvements within it. The downtown TIF account has a current balance of $311,353.

Myers projected the balance to increase by $173,687 in fiscal year 2014 and to grow by 1.5-percent each year thereafter, which he described as a conservative estimate. Over the course of 20 years the TIF district would generate $4,016,280 enough to service a borrowing of $1.5-million at 4.249-percent and leave a balance of $1,922,828 in the TIF account. Alternatively, a borrowing of $2-million for the same term at the same rate would leave a balance of $1,226,115.

Myers said that since the TIF district generates the revenue to defray the principal and interest payments on the borrowing, the debt would have no impact on the amount to be raised by property taxes, which is limited by the tax cap.