The Herald-Times

Our Opinion: Yes to county’s property buy

Posted: Saturday, September 7, 2013 12:00 am

Ivy Tech Community College is a state institution, right? Right.

Ivy Tech doesn’t pay property taxes, correct? Yes, that’s correct.

Then why is Monroe County about to buy a building currently on the tax rolls and essentially give it to Ivy Tech, which as a public entity doesn’t pay property taxes?

And why should the county subsidize the state, anyway? It’s a state college, right?

Those questions are legitimate, but still, the county’s purchase of the now vacant Pain Real Estate building just opposite the Ivy Tech campus, with plans to turn it over to Ivy Tech, is a good idea and good policy.

The money to pay off the $2 million bond to be used in the purchase will come from the county’s westside Tax Increment Finance (TIF) district. The district captures property taxes levied on new development within its bounds since 1994, the year the tax was first collected. That money then must be used for redevelopment and infrastructure improvements within the TIF.

The district includes much of the industrial/commercial development just west of Bloomington and includes the Cook world headquarters building, finished in 2002.

Back to the questions. First, while it is a bit incongruous that local government should be buying buildings for the state, the reality is that there’s no telling when or if that entity might actually cough up the money needed for the purchase.

It was tough enough to wring $24 million out of Indiana to pay for Ivy Tech’s much needed expansion of its main campus building. That was only approved this year after several years of lobbying by campus and college officials. This is certainly less money, but it can’t wait forever. Another buyer might come along any day, foreclosing the possibility of creating still urgently needed new classrooms even with the current expansion plan. And this building is just across the street from Ivy Tech’s main building.

But what about the fact that the purchase will permanently remove the building from the property tax rolls? That’s absolutely true. But from this vantage point, the trade-off is worth it.

There is nothing more important for this region and for the state than a system that supports our graduating high school seniors (and older students) in pursuit of post-high school training.

Yes, we have an excellent major national university just down the road with Indiana University. But that isn’t for everyone. Even though a state university, it’s quite expensive, in fact, and that alone makes it inaccessible for many prospective students.

And not everyone, as we know, is ready for the transition to a giant, teeming and intimidating campus at age 18. For many, then, Ivy Tech is a bridge to help them across.

TIF money is supposed to be used for improvements that encourage employment growth and development.

Redevelopment commissioner Don Moore argues that the purchase and future use of the building would provide one of the “biggest bangs for the buck” the county could find. We agree.

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.