What’s the Rush, Chesterfield?
Chesterfield leaders have scheduled a special city council meeting for Wednesday, December 14, to vote on (and likely approve) the $300 million-plus subsidy for the Chesterfield Mall (and surrounding area) tax-increment financing (TIF) plan. The special meeting is unusual and likely relates to reports I have heard from multiple places that the proposal has to be done in 2022. These sources indicate the developer is behind this push.
In most instances, the timing of the TIF project would not matter. It would start when passed by the TIF commission and city council and last up to 23 years from that date. But apparently, it really matters here, as the special city council session indicates. Why?
Probably because the work on the project has already begun, and if the work has already begun, there is risk of the property being assessed at a higher value in the looming 2023 reassessment cycle. If it is assessed at a higher value, that limits the size of the tax subsidy available. Don’t get me wrong, it would still be an enormous TIF project, but hey, every few million dollars counts.
Of course, the fact that the work has begun before the TIF proposal is finalized is important, because the justification for this abomination of a TIF project is that the area is “blighted” and that the project would not happen at all “but for” the tax subsidy. It is hard to claim that it would not happen “but for” the subsidy when construction has already started before the subsidy is approved, but this appears to mean nothing to Chesterfield, the St. Louis County TIF Commission, and the various planners and lawyers who are all in on the tax subsidy largesse. (See appendix C of this document for the relevant affidavits.)
There’s another way to interpret construction starting on this project before the money was even approved. The developers were so confident that the TIF commission and the Chesterfield City Council would approve the money that there was simply no need to wait. This attitude, if true, would conform with the broader subsidy culture in our state, where local governments often just rubber stamp tax subsidy requests.
Will the city further contort itself to do the bidding of the developer and get this all approved before 2023 when the reassessment clock will strike midnight? Or will the city protect taxpayers and the other affected taxing jurisdictions, such as the Parkway and Rockwood school districts, by dealing with the reality that the developers used the system to extract taxpayer money for a project that never needed subsidies to begin with?