"Money is like manure. It is not worth a thing unless it's spread around, encouraging young things to grow," quipped Judy Karofsky, a longtime homeowner from the city's Mansion Hill neighborhood.
Apparently, most members of the city's Tax Incremental Financing Review Board agree with Karofsky's colorful simile, as they voted Wednesday to expand the State Street TIF district to include the James Madison Park neighborhood and give approximately $16 million in public money to the Edgewater redevelopment project.
Madison residents and city officials overflowed the meeting room at the City-County Building Wednesday night, waiting to voice concerns or support for the new TIF district boundaries.
The Edgewater project, slated to cost nearly $100 million, has long been caught in a tug-of-war between city officials, as it's come before a plethora of city committees.
Amy Supple, representing Edgewater developer Hammes Co., insisted the project would result in a tangible public asset that bolsters the city's economy.
"I feel that when you look at the facts... it has a substantial economic benefit for the city," Supple said. "It is one of the first TIFs in Madison's history where all of the TIF money is going into creating a public access that people can touch and feel."
Supple sought to reassure those who worried what would happen if the Edgewater project failed to hit its projected revenue goals, noting that Hammes Co. already has a nearly $100 million stake in the project's success.
Board member and city comptroller Dean Brasser said the city has meticulously reviewed the probability of success for the Edgewater redevelopment while considering the TIF district, as the city would ultimately be on the hook if the project did not pay off.
Steve Breitlow of the Building and Construction Trades Council of South Central Wisconsin emphasized the construction jobs that would be created by the project, noting how stagnant the construction industry has been in this recession. David Worzala and Roger Price, the board members respectively representing Dane County and Madison Area Technical College, echoed Breitlow's sentiments.
But board member Lucy Mathiak, representing the Madison school board, expressed disapproval of the financial risks involved TIF district expansion, saying: "This is not feeling like a good time to get wild with public money."
Mathiak was the only board member to vote against the TIF district expansion.
Board chair and citizen representative Gary Poulson acknowledged the difficult times the school district is facing but said the economic benefits and job creation offered by the Edgewater project are too important to turn down.
"The job situation is so critical that we need to put people back to work," Poulson said. "There is an investment here and I think that it could provide enough of a bump that it's worth supporting."