The Herald Times

Ivy Tech asks county to fund purchase of building

Millions of dollars go to college that pays no property taxes, but county says a more skilled workforce is worth the investment

Posted: Sunday, August 25, 2013 12:00 am

By Rachel Bunn
331-4357 |

One of the largest projects to use tax increment financing district money in Monroe County benefited a group that pays no taxes into the county’s Westside TIF district.

Ivy Tech’s Bloomington campus is located in Monroe County’s Westside TIF district, but as a college, it is exempt from property taxes.

A $5 million bond was approved in 2007 to help build the Ivy Tech Community College Indiana Center for the Life Sciences, a building that serves as a training facility for local students and local life-sciences employees. Last week, the redevelopment commission approved a contract of about $48,000 for Americans with Disabilities Act improvements outside the center.

In June, Ivy Tech Bloomington Chancellor John Whikehart returned to the redevelopment commission to ask for $1.6 million, this time to purchase and renovate the Pain Real Estate building at the intersection of Daniels Way and Ind. 48, just west of Ivy Tech’s main academic building. The total project will cost $3.6 million.

Ivy Tech owns the land the building sits on, and rents it to the redevelopment commission. The redevelopment commission rents both the land and the building, which it owns, to the college for $1 a year. Should the Pain Building be purchased, it likely would have a similar lease arrangement.

If this most recent request is passed, it will mean a little more than $6.6 million in tax dollars has been poured into Ivy Tech, though it does not contribute money to the TIF district. But that doesn’t mean there’s no public benefit to it, said Jeff Cockerill, county attorney.

“The whole thought is, what the redevelopment commission expects in return on investment is not a monetary item,” he said. “There was a real need for education that would help spur employment.”

Redevelopment commission member Don Moore said he supported Ivy Tech and believed investment in the college was a good use of TIF money. “I believe that local economic development should emphasize productivity within the local economy (and fair reward to those becoming more productive), not just having a bigger economy, which probably of itself adds little to nothing to productivity,” Moore said in an email. “Ivy Tech Bloomington has heretofore done a fine job providing the targeted education, which increases the productivity of our workforce.”

Jim Shelton, another member of the redevelopment commission, said the charge of the redevelopment commission is to watch over the TIF money and use it wisely.

Through firsthand experience, both as a businessman and a member of the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce, Shelton said, he knows finding qualified workers can be a problem for businesses.

In the case of Ivy Tech, redevelopment commission members agree that moving forward with the purchase would be a good investment of TIF funds.

“Education is one of the most important economic development tools we have,” he said.

TIF districts use property taxes generated by new construction in their areas to pay for infrastructure or debts incurred by infrastructure improvements. The idea is the districts use public funding to subsidize redevelopment and improvements that will serve a particular area.

There are three TIF districts in Monroe County: the Westside TIF, the State Road 46 TIF and the Fullerton Pike TIF.

In the county, the money has typically gone to things such as roads or sewers, as well as projects like training, trails near the new Monroe County YMCA and fire department equipment. The Center for the Life Sciences is the only building the commission has outright purchased with TIF money.

The redevelopment commission is moving forward, and it is likely the commission will approve the final bond to purchase the Pain Building, having already committed to the project, Cockerill said. The bond would then need to be approved by the Monroe County Council and the Monroe County Board of Commissioners.

Though the redevelopment commission has previously purchased a building for the college, the project was never a done deal.

“It’s difficult to get funding from the redevelopment commission,” Cockerill said. “There clearly has to be a case made for it.”

In total, $14.6 million in projects have been completed in the Westside TIF, and another $9.5 million are planned, according to a report by Bill Williams, director of the Monroe County Highway Department.

“For a good project, it’s a lot easier,” Cockerill said. “It depends a lot on the project itself.”

The Pain Building would be used to house some of the college’s medical training programs, including nursing, that have expanded over the past several years.

Ivy Tech’s growth has outpaced its enrollment projections, which called for the Bloomington campus to have about 5,000 students this year. The 2013 enrollment is about 6,800. To help accommodate that growth, the college has been leasing additional buildings for about $500,000 per year.

The Indiana Legislature’s State Budget Committee approved a $24 million project to expand the college’s main academic building in July, and hours after the approval, Whikehart presented his case to the redevelopment commission for even more space.

About Ivy Tech Community College

Ivy Tech Community College is Indiana's largest public postsecondary institution and the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college system, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana and also serves thousands of students annually online. It serves as the state's engine of workforce development, offering associate degrees, long- and short-term certificate programs, industry certifications, and training that aligns with the needs of the community. The College provides a seamless transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana, as well as out of state, for a more affordable route to a bachelor's degree.