by Max Brantley
North Little Rock City Attorney Jason Carter won't talk to me on account of my criticism of North Little Rock's abuse of tax increment financing law in pursuit of Mayor Pat Hays' dreams and schemes. Carter apparently leaked to the Democrat-Gazette his proposed settlement of a lawsuit by the North Little Rock School Board over the city's midnight effort in the waning hours of 2008 to illegally gerrymander downtown TIF districts to capture six mills in property tax on the new $30 million Enclave apartments before the tax would go on the school district's books.
I"ve had a copy of this settlement for several days and have been making inquiries. Carter has refused to come to the phone, but others have.
As sometimes happens on NLR doings, the D-G missed the point. The article talked about the settlement's creation of a largely meaningless review board that would mull future tax increment finance districts. It would be advisory. Boss Hays would control several members and he could and would still use his attorney stooge and puppet City Council to ram through whatever he desired should anyone object.
The question is what happens to the midnight TIF gerrymander created in 2008 and who gets the Enclave tax money. The settlement references an unspecified amendment to that 2008 ordinance, but says nothing about shape of the district or the tax money. Schools officials presume Boss Hays wants to keep the money to build a parking deck. They don't want to give up the money. They need every penny, with facilities deteriorating all over the district. But Boss Hays and his enforcers like Carter play hardball. I'll write next week about the threats that have been whispered to the School Disrict about retaliation if they don't go along with this so-called settlement.
That's the real story. That and continued perversion of the TIF law.
TIF districts are supposed to encourage new development, not steal school taxes from new projects, like the Enclave, constructed outside TIF districts without any goverment benefits or encouragement. North Little Rock's declining sales tax revenue also suggests that Boss Hays is off base in claiming trickle-down benefits from new construction like the Enclave, his standard defense of stealing school district lunch money in TIF districts.