RICHMOND — When Richmond created its Pipeline Tax Increment Financing District two decades ago, it was moving into uncharted territory.

Jay Robbins, who was the Richmond town manager at that time, said town residents wanted to be conservative.

At Monday’s public hearing on the proposal to renew the Pipeline TIF district for a decade, Robbins explained to the current Board of Selectmen and about a dozen residents how the program evolved.

Tax increment financing is a program that allows cities and towns to shield new value from development from calculations to preserve the amount of state aid for education and revenue sharing they receive from state government, and the county tax assessments, saving residents some money.

Some TIFs return a portion of that sheltered property tax revenue to the developer whose project increased the value. It is a common economic development incentive. Communities also designate projects related to the TIF district or economic development on which their share of the property tax must be spent.

Robbins said two decades ago, town officials opted not to offer any such incentive to the Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline, which was building a natural gas compressor station and a pipeline through town.

The district encompasses 167 acres: The property that houses the compressor station on Lincoln Street and the path the pipeline takes through Richmond.

“We were the first town in the state not to take the corporate welfare approach,” Robbins said. “The Maine Municipal Association awarded the town the Big Idea of the Year (award) for the whole state.”

Because of their conservative approach, town officials opted to collect only about 18% of the value, even though they could have collected 100% of the value.

“One of the first things we did to sell this to people was to take a little money off the top to reduce the mill rate for the year,” Robbins said. “I think that had a lot to do with people buying into it.”

Under the proposal to extend the life of the district for a decade, town officials want to capture all the value, which would total about $8.3 million over the next 10 years.

“We stayed within the spirit of the seven specifics of the goals the TIF was supposed to do,” Garland said.

Those goals, including funding economic development, will be carried forward, but will be expanded.

If the district lapses this year, the sheltering at the much lower original assessed value of the bare land would stop. If a new district were to be created after the lapse, the assessed value would reflect the added value and the potential for gain would be lost.

“However you feel about it,” Garland said, “whether you are for it or against it, just vote. We want to know that this is what residents want.”

If the TIF district extension passes, residents will have a chance to make changes to how the money is spent, if they wish.

Garland said he and the selectmen want to be transparent about how the money collected under the TIF is allocated.

“At a minimum, the manager, the selectmen and the economic development manager should sit at this table in front of a public forum and talk about what the plan is and how to use the money,” Garland said. “People can have the opportunity to weigh in on the discussion.”

Selectman Andrew Alexander said if residents want to change how much money is collected and spent, it could be changed every year.

Residents will have their say when the vote on March 3, at the Public Works garage. They will also vote on whether they want the town to continue looking into withdrawing from Regional School Unit 2.

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