No one originally involved with the “Duke deal” ever envisioned an expansion of the Economic Development Area, or that any “extra” TIF monies would be put to another use but would flow back into their normal channels — the treasuries of the appropriate taxing districts.
When the county over a decade ago agreed to establish the Tax Increment Financing Zone for the proposed Duke Energy power plant at Edwardsport, there was not an “understanding” but a “commitment” to seeing as much of the property-tax revenue as possible continue its natural progression to the North Knox school district, the local township, and even the county itself.
“Only to take what we need” was how one Duke official explained what his company intended to do, meaning that only enough property-tax revenue as was needed to pay off the construction bonds would be held back through the TIF zone. Only what was needed.
Now the Economic Development Area has been expanded, and extra property-tax money under the control of the Knox County Redevelopment Commission is being spent to pave roads in Freelandville and Westphalia and to help pay for a new bridge on Pine Bluff Road.
This is meant as no criticism of the county commissioners; they saw an opportunity and took it, and to the advantage of all county residents.
Those TIF dollars being used outside the zone means there will be other local tax dollars available to spend elsewhere in the county.
The legislation setting up this queer little arrangement was hastily written, briefly debated, and quickly approved and signed by the governor — so strong was the desire to have the plant built in Indiana.
A commitment by Duke not to take all it was entitled to was understood as a goodwill gesture, especially the guarantee the school corporation wouldn’t suffer by the creation of the TIF zone, which had been a concern.
That the “Duke deal” has now been “reinterpreted” shouldn’t really come as a surprise; almost every law eventually goes through this kind of “broadening” in order to be adapted for a new, and often entirely different, purpose. That’s the way the process works.
The same thing happened with the legislation that launched the Economic Development Income Tax as a source of revenue; what was intended to be funding used strictly to create jobs got processed through the clever minds of quick-thinking lawyers and came out as sort of a slush fund now used by local governments in increasingly unrelated, non-job creating ways.
There is concern such could also become the fate of this arrangement, that future county commissioners would find other ways to use this money.
Which makes wise use of these funds now all the more important.