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TIF districts: At what cost?

  • The new footbridge connecting Peterborough’s Depot Square with the new parking lot across Nubanusit Brook. Staff photo by Nate Tower

  • A new parking lot and footbridge in Peterborough under construction earlier this fall.  Photo by MEGHAN PIERCE

  • A new parking lot and footbridge in Peterborough under construction earlier this fall.  Photo by MEGHAN PIERCE

  • A new parking lot and footbridge in Peterborough under construction earlier this fall.  Photo by MEGHAN PIERCE

  • A new parking lot and footbridge in Peterborough under construction earlier this fall.  Photo by MEGHAN PIERCE

  • A new parking lot and footbridge in Peterborough under construction earlier this fall.  Photo by MEGHAN PIERCE


Friday, December 07, 2018 5:11PM

In Peterborough, where the town budget is often rubberstamped by Town Meeting voters and sent on through, we’ve been the beneficiary of several projects aimed at beautifying our town, making it more appealing and walkable. Whether it’s the sidewalks and streetlights of West Peterborough or the new footbridge and parking lot downtown, the projects have come along couched with reassurances – the money will come out of the TIF district funds, and it will raise your property values. And so it did, as the most recent property valuation showed, with rising values throughout Peterborough.

Between the rising property values and the ConVal school budget, property owners around town will pay more in taxes next year than they did this year.

The tax rate in Peterborough is down slightly, for sure, but that decrease is outweighed by the increase in property taxes as a result of revaluation. One has to imagine that without TIF-funded beautification projects in the budget, the tax burden would be even less, the tax rate would be even lower and property owners wouldn’t be faced with such an astronomical bill to continue living in the house they already own. Additionally there is the question of whether or not the other ConVal School District towns, that also saw their local school rate go up, are subsiding Peterborough projects since Peterborough’s local school rate is set using the total town assessed value minus the increased assessed valued captured in the TIF districts.

Just take the Route 101/202 intersection for example. There is a fairly new G.F.A. Federal Credit Union on one corner and a fairly new Dunkin’ Donuts on another. These new businesses surely raised the value of the properties they are sitting on. Think that new growth will be collected and used to bring your taxes down? Think again. Any of that new assessed value is being captured by the Greater Peterborough TIF District, which is using that money to build a parking lot and footbridge downtown.

In 2015, Peterborough Town Meeting voters approved an approximately $1.143 million bond to cover the costs of the project, which included construction of a parking lot, road access, pedestrian bridge, and land acquisition. Voters also approved extending the Greater Downtown Tax Increment Finance District, which was set to end, to pay for the annual bond payments for the parking-lot project. The district was extended until June 2035. The cost of the project was later brought down to $839,000. But that is still a nice chunk of change we are sure property owners would like to see easing their tax burden this coming year as opposed to building downtown a footbridge.

During that 2015 Town Meeting, town officials assured voters that because the project would be funded by a TIF district it would not impact property taxes. But ladies and gentlemen, there is no such thing as a free footbridge. And if you think there is, there is a bridge in Brooklyn we’d like to sell you.