SAN ANGELO, TX — The Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone Board headed by Jon Mark Hogg defiantly pushed another non-profit organization’s project to the San Angelo City Council for its approval yesterday. The 4-3 council voted down the previous non-profit organization’s grant request last week when it denied the grant to the Gethsemane Missionary Baptist Church. The Council further indicated its preference to only fund grants for projects at properties that pay property taxes.
Wednesday’s TIRZ Board meeting saw the body strike back at the Council.
Instead of bending to the slim 4-3 majority of the City Council, the TIRZ board approved a request for financial assistance for another non-profit on Martin Luther King Blvd. The grant will be for building two small parking lots, provide facade improvements, install lighting as well as provide historic preservation, a fire sprinkler, and smoke alarm system. The total TIRZ grant is for $64,262 of the $71,402 project.
The property’s custodian called “The Bridge” is supplying a $7,140 matching contribution, according to information supplied at Wednesday's TIRZ board meeting. According to the Tom Green County Appraisal District, the property is owned by the Ministerial Alliance of San Angelo.
The Bridge is the former Guadalupe Elementary School, known historically as the old “Mexican School” that was long ago abandoned and sold by the school district. Currently, the building is being used to host social affairs like parties, meetings and get-togethers. It also sublets office space to various non-profit organizations. The building also hosts the offices of Pastor Theodore Boone who has become an outspoken advocate for using TIRZ funds to finance non-profit properties, especially on MLK Blvd. He is calling it the “MLK Corridor.”
The TIRZ board unanimously voted in favor of approving The Bridge’s project. After the project was approved, the TIRZ board voted 5-3 to allow non-profit organizations in both the northern and southern TIRZ to apply for grants for restoration projects in defiance of the slim majority of the City Council’s wishes.
In another discussion, former city manager and current TIRZ board member Steven Brown said that TIRZ will “come to a day of reckoning” about the split between northern and southern zones in the TIRZ. Brown stated that the southern TIRZ zone, that is from 3rd Street south, only has $71,000 remaining in its fund balance. Meanwhile, the northern TIRZ zone, flush with tax money from the Walmart on 29th Street and aided by slower growth — and thus less requests for projects — has over $1 million. (In all TIRZ generates about $1.3 million per year in tax revenue. The TIRZ creates a reduction to the City as well County general revenue funds, approximately splitting the TIRZ deduction).
Brown stated that he wants “an honest, open discussion by the board about making a motion on a recommendation to the City Council that we move the TIRZ zone (boundary) to the (Concho) River and make it one TIRZ zone.”
Brown’s proposal makes sense to many. Currently the TIRZ funds cannot be directed to projects where the City and County can reap the most benefit in increased property tax revenue and economic growth. On the other hand, we expect property owners in the north to fight the proposal to end the TIRZ split. The denial by the City Council of the non-profit Gethsemane Missionary Baptist Church TIRZ grant this month has galvanized and organized political support to direct the northern TIRZ pot of money to north San Angelo projects. Pastor Boone noted that, “Non-profit organizations are driving the vision…”
But Brown gave away his only bargaining chip to realize his unified TIRZ vision when he voted in favor for expanding non-profit organization eligibility to the southern TIRZ. Board members Greg Gaylor, Jason Fernandez, and Bryan Benson were the only three members to vote against the non-profit expansion. Non-profit eligibility is a pinnacle demand of the newly formed northern TIRZ coalition.
Other TIRZ Board members, in addition to Chairman Hogg, include Greg Gaylor, Jason Fernandez, Ryan Newlin, Tom Maurer, Tony Villarreal, and Tony Hunter.
Wednesday, the TIRZ Board shot two shells across the City Council’s bow — the non-profit project at 1100 MLK and the expansion of grant eligibility to non-profits. Observers are waiting to see what the Council’s response will be. City Planning Director Jon James said the items may be incorporated into Tuesday’s City Council agenda.
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