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Billings City Council hears development updates from TIF districts

Posted at 11:12 PM, Jun 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-17 14:48:59-04

BILLINGS – Billings City Council members met Monday night in a work session to hear 2020 budget proposals from some city departments and all three urban renewal tax-increment financing (TIF) districts.

Here’s a rundown:

  • The South Billings Urban Renewal District (SBURD)

SBURD director Steve Zeier spoke about how the group has pivoted its attention to the yet-to-be-built South Billings Aquatic Recreation Center.

“Our interest in the aquatics and recreation center has grown,” Zeier said.

The center is currently in the final stages of concept development.

The scale and the scope of the project needs to be more clearly defined to figure out how to pay for it, how it will run sustainably, and how it’s going to be operated in a sustainable fashion,” Zeier said.

  • Downtown Billings TIF District

Downtown Billings Executive Director Katy Easton spoke about how the group will deal with a 5 percent loss in tax revenue in 2020.

Easton says the district isn’t going anywhere. It just may be able to hand out smaller grants, like in the $10,000 range, versus grants in the million-dollar range.

“I do feel we need to continue to spur economic development and find that where we can,” Easton said. “We have awarded significantly large projects, and we won’t be able to see that happen for a few years.”

Easton described the loss of tax revenue like “the chicken and the egg.”

“Development is what spurs tax increment to grow,” Easton said. “The way that increment increases is by spurring economic development. Creation of a vibrant downtown is what draws people to want to create business there. Which then, as a result, will grow that tax increment.”

  • East Billings Urban Renewal District (EBURD)

East Billings Urban Renewal district coordinator Tim Goodridge spoke about all of the district’s recent successes.

Those include new lighting and incentives for businesses to beautify the area.

Because the city council meeting was a work session, no votes were made Monday night.