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City of St. Pete seeks to mobilize TIF district funding for Covid-19 emergency relief

Megan Holmes

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The St. Petersburg City Council is set to resume regular Council meetings virtually, via Zoom, beginning April 16.

On the agenda for the Council’s first meeting back will be the first reading of three ordinances related to Covid-19 emergency relief funding. Through the ordinances, Mayor Rick Kriseman’s administration seeks to mobilize three tax increment financing (TIF) districts, known as community revitalization areas (or CRAs) to support relief programs like the Fighting Chance Fund, announced last week by Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin. 

The Fighting Chance Fund will award $5,000 grants to restaurants, bars, retail and service-based businesses in St. Petersburg that are owned by city residents and employ 25 or fewer people, as well as $500 grants to their employees.

If passed, the ordinances would amend the adopted plans of the South St. Petersburg CRA, Intown CRA and Intown West CRA, originally established to reduce blight and redevelop key areas of the city, to mobilize funds for emergency relief programs. It would also require that the city develop operating guidelines for the use of TIF funds, and that those guidelines be approved by the Mayor and City Council before any funding expenditures.

The ordinances allow the CRA funds to be used for new “redevelopment activities,” such as prevention of blight; providing assistance – technical or financial – to businesses, employees, residents and property owners in the case of natural or man-made emergencies; and providing grant or loan programs to incentivize businesses to maintain or expand their operations.

The ordinances would also create emergency relief programs within each of the enumerated plans. The portion of the ordinance that establishes the Emergency Relief Program for each of the districts reads:

Under normal conditions, the Florida Redevelopment Act of 1969 requires TIF funds to be expended in accordance with an adopted redevelopment plan that identifies projects to be funded with TIF and the amount to be expended.

However, emergency situations do not allow for the detailed design and budgeting process that capital project planning involves and will often require the development of improvised policies and procedures responding to the demands of the specific event. Under such circumstances, Florida Statutes provide broad authority for municipalities to respond to emergency conditions. Section 252.38(3)(a), FS, allows municipalities

“to appropriate and expend funds; make contracts; obtain and distribute equipment, materials, and supplies for emergency management purposes; provide for the health and safety of persons and property, including emergency assistance to the victims of any emergency; and direct and coordinate the development of emergency management plans and programs in accordance with the policies and plans set by the federal and state emergency management agencies.”

City Code Section 2-425 provides the Mayor with authority to declare an emergency to respond to imminent dangers to St. Petersburg. With these powers in mind, the “[CRA name] CRA Emergency Relief Program” was created to enable the use of TIF funds during an emergency declaration issued pursuant to Florida Statute and/or City Code. For each declaration of emergency, use of TIF funds through will require the creation of program guidelines approved by the Mayor and City Council for expenditure of funds that among other items identify eligible users, the type and amount of relief offered, and procedures to ensure that funding is expended on the businesses, property owners and residents of the [CRA name] CRA. Unless Pinellas County allows use of its TIF for the program by approving the IRP amendment and the program guidelines, only City of St. Petersburg TIF contributions can be used.

 

City staff recommends approval of the first reading April 16, and if passed, will schedule a second reading and vote for adoption May 7.

A full list of who is eligible for the City of St. Petersburg’s Fighting Chance program and information on how to apply for funding can be found here. Applications will be available April 9.

 

Those looking to participate in the April 16 City Council meeting can join via two options:

Option 1: Join the meeting with visuals and audio by downloading and logging into Zoom:

1. Visit. www.stpete.org/meetings

2. Download Zoom via the screen prompts

3. Enter your email address and name via the screen prompts

 

Option 2: Join the meeting by audio only:

1. Dial +1-312-626-6679

2. Enter the webinar ID: 145 369 901#

 

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