Whitewater council candidate admits mistakes about opponent

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Andrea Anderson
Saturday, March 29, 2014

WHITEWATER—Paul Yvarra, a Whitewater City Council candidate, said he made a mistake in a comment relating to his opponent, Lynn Binnie.

In a Wednesday story advancing the Whitewater City Council elections, Yvarra claimed Binnie's employer, Fairhaven Senior Services, had not kept its end of agreements relating to a tax increment finance district.

Prairie Village is a development of homes for senior citizens owned and run by Fairhaven. Prairie Village covers about 50 acres of the approximate 1,280-acre TIF district, said Doug Saubert, Whitewater finance director.

Tax increment financing is a tool for governments to attract private investment. It allows municipalities to acquire property, eliminate dilapidated buildings, make improvements such as sewer, water and streets and charge the cost to a TIF district.

The municipality then offers sites in the district to businesses for free or at great discounts to draw development. As the district's property value rises because of the new investment, the increases in property taxes are used to repay only the municipality's costs. When the costs are paid or the district's limited life expires, the new property taxes are distributed among all taxing jurisdictions, such as school districts and the county.

During the life of a TIF, taxing districts such as schools receive the same property taxes they did before the new investment raised the property value.

The district in question is TIF No. 4. It was created in 1990 and amended three times, Saubert said.

In 2005, the Prairie Village project was included, and in 2011, the TIF was declared distressed, Saubert said.

All agreements involving Fairhaven have been kept, and payments have been made on time and in full, Binnie said.

Saubert backed Binnie's claims.

Along with the TIF agreement, a development agreement was signed saying Fairhaven would construct a certain number of buildings that would create revenue from taxes to pay the debt on the borrowing. If all of the buildings weren't constructed, Fairhaven would pay the difference to the city. This would occur in addition to other yearly payments. The company has been making all of the payments on a yearly basis and on time, Saubert said.

Yvarra said he "made a mistake" and wasn't trying to imply Binnie did something wrong.

Yvarra said he based his statements on information from a Jefferson County newspaper.

 “I understand they are paying their taxes and paying extra because of the situation they are facing,” Yvarra said.

Yvarra previously stated that TIF No. 4 subsidized the development cost of Prairie Village and that Binnie testified in January 2011 to the community development authority for the distress designation of the TIF.

Binnie denies that the TIF subsidized the development, saying the district paid only for  infrastructure improvements. He confirmed that he spoke to the community development authority about the distressed classification of the TIF and the opportunity for Fairhaven to potentially spread out payments over a longer time. But Fairhaven pulled its request to do so later.

“Fairhaven just felt it was in our best interest, and the city's best interest, to go ahead and make payments” on the existing schedule, Binnie said.

Saubert confirmed the city only completed infrastructure improvements.

“It did not subsidize it. It helped it get off the ground,” Saubert said. “Fairhaven Senior Services, or Prairie Village, has completely paid for, over time, the cost of that development and cost of any improvements that were put in.”

Yvarra said he did not mean to say TIF No. 4 subsidized the development itself but the infrastructure in the development.

“When a development comes up and people ask for TIF money to specially assist in infrastructure, like sewer and water and other services, I know this is normal, so I hope it isn't coming across like I'm making an accusation like he did something wrong,” Yvarra said. “I'm just asking a question of the workings of how this was all worked out and put together.”

Yvarra said he'd like to know if Binnie attended the 2011 community development authority meeting as a representative of Fairhaven or the city council. Binnie said he was there as a representative of Fairhaven.

Binnie is the incumbent in District 4 and has been on the council since 2008. Yvarra is seeking office for the first time.

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