Is Scarborough putting the proverbial cart before the horse? A case of ready, fire, aim rather than ready, aim, fire? We are still in the resource-intensive process of an update of the Comprehensive Plan that will not be completed until January 2019. This plan will define what our community consensus is for future development, including such issues as whether a downtown area is a priority need for residents and if we want a community center. It would seem prudent to complete that process before we approve any tax increment financing and credit enhancement agreements.
The prudent development of Scarborough Downs presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the town. At the same time, understanding the details of the project and assessing the town’s role in financing the development present unprecedented challenges for us.
In basic terms, the proposed TIF/CEA essentially earmarks tens of millions of dollars of future tax revenues for infrastructure projects like roads and sewers. These earmarked tax revenues will therefore not be available to fund the annual school and municipal operating budgets. It is unclear what impact setting aside significant TIF/CEA funds for development will have on future municipal and school budget pressures.
Although the current Town Charter does not require a referendum on the TIF/CEA, a non-binding advisory referendum would be appropriate. I believe that the people of Scarborough deserve a direct voice in this decision.
Town Councilor Peter F. Hayes