Commissioners approve TIF waiver, as committee considers adjustments to guidelines
FARMINGTON - County commissioners approved a waiver to allow a resident of the Unorganized Territory to utilize TIF-generated funds to take courses online, as administrators look ahead to the second year of the economic development program.
Through the 2008 TIF agreement between the state, county and project developer TransCanada, 75 percent of tax revenues through the Kibby Wind Project were captured, with 60 percent of that amount returned to the company. The other 40 percent, or an estimated $4 million over a 20-year period, was taken by the county for the use of economic development in the unorganized territories. Commissioners approved the TIF plan because they were interested in seeing the benefits of the project go toward local projects, rather than be absorbed by the state.
In March 2012, commissioners agreed to fund eight projects and three scholarships, using roughly $86,000 of $98,000 set aside for that purpose by the TIF. All requests were vetted, rated and approved by the TIF committee prior to being approved by commissioners.
Tuesday, commissioners unanimously approved allowing a U.T. resident to utilize some of the funds set aside for employment training, as requested by two members of the TIF committee, Alison Hagerstrom of Greater Franklin Development Corporation and Gary Perlson. The waiver was necessary because the U.T. resident was taking online nursing courses through Excelsior College, and the county guidelines for the TIF program requires the funds be expended at a Maine institution.
Locally, the reality was that there wasn't enough nursing courses to go around, Perlson said. There are roughly 500 applicants for 30 training positions, he said, and the online courses allowed students to seek state certification through the nursing licensing exam.
Commissioners approved the TIF funding up to 20 percent of the resident's program costs, which is the most allowable for education under the state TIF regulations. Hagerstrom said she would check with the Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments about how the figure derived from the 20 percent limit should be calculated.
Hagerstrom said that the committee intended to meet and offer some alterations to the county's TIF guidance document to address similar situations, such as a U.T. resident trying to take online classes. The commissioners would need to approve any such suggestions.
Meanwhile, five applications are being considered in the next round of TIF funding, Hagerstrom said.