“TIF, TIF, Hooray!” Harford Campaign for Liberty Urges Public Petition Against Tax Increment Financing of James Run Project

From Harford Campaign for Liberty:

Why should you care what a TIF is?

Tax Increment Financing is being used by Harford County government to give developers big loans backed by the taxpayers. The Harford County Government plans to borrow more than $20,000,000 to fund the projects of huge developers and you’re underwriting it. Then, over time, the property taxes from the now-improved property will go to pay back the loan first, rather than put the tax money into the general fund. A TIF is a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) between the County and the private developers.

James Run is located southwest of I-95 and Rte. 543. The 110 acre piece of land is slated for lodging, retail, and office uses. This is a high-density, mixed-use project. Harford Council members Boniface, Lisanti, Slutzky, and Guthrie, at the urging of County Executive David Craig, voted on November 20th 2012 to give the James Run developers: $23 million dollars in financing through unrated ‘municipal junk bonds’ at 9% interest.

Two years ago, Harford County’s first TIF was approved. In 2010, Beechtree Estates received a $14 million TIF from the County to build a new residential development. To date, this project has been a failure for sales of homes– but a huge success for the crony business contacts. In 2013 it is estimated that they will owe the county $1.1 million in tax revenue and will only pay $300,000. The developer’s company will get the bill for the difference of $779,000.

If they cannot or do not want to pay this amount, guess who is on the hook to pay back the bond? Your grandmother, my parents, and my family will be on the hook for it. The county will be be forced to make good on the loan. They’ll spend our hard-earned money on maintaining, advertising, and selling the property at a foreclosure auction just to break even. No wonder why these TIF junk bonds have such a high rate, up to 9% interest. Investors consider ‘mixed-use’ developments a high risk.

The County has set a precedent by underwriting James Run and Beechtree. Every developer will want preferential treatment like this from now on. Those who don’t get help building will view it as unfair.

But wait, there’s more to this story.

The companies and developers who have been planning the James Run project for the last five years have been quietly making campaign contributions. Where did these contributions go? To the same people who would be deciding if they received help from the county.

Am I saying that this is collusion between parties involved and our elected officials? Maybe so, maybe not – but at best, sends the wrong message. It creates an environment in which other developers will say, “this is how you have to operate in Harford County.”

The contributions were from:

* the owners of the land

* the builders, JR Lodging and James Run Development Company

* the engineering company, Morris Ritchie Associates

* the lawyers representing the interested parties, Gessner, Snee, Mahoney and Lutche

* and the construction company who would benefit from site jobs, Dixie Construction.

The elected officials who backed the junk bonds:

* Dion Guthrie – received $321 (Mr. Guthrie has dissolved his campaign fund.)

* Richard Slutzky – received $1100 in campaign funds

* Mary Ann Lisanti – received $5435 in funds(she’s co-author of the bill)

* Billy Boniface – Over $10,000 toward his campaign fund(he’s co-author and Council President)

* David Craig – has received a whopping $23,790 in contributions to his campaign, all from the parties who will benefit from the James Run TIF.

TIFs should not be used in development projects in this county. Just like the giveaway grants and forgivable loans this county uses, TIFs are another private-public partnership gone awry.

Too much room is given for corruption and preferential treatment. If you’re tired of seeing your local government give taxpayer money to companies and developers, we need your help in sending a message. Call and email the County Executive and Council members who supported this Crony TIF funding, and tell them NO MORE. NO MORE ‘opportunity loans’, NO MORE ‘training grants’, and NO MORE millions of dollars spent in ‘tax increment financing’. Tell these TIF Supporters to Stop Voting for Crony Capitalism:

David Craig: david@davidcraig.com (410)638-3350

Billy Boniface: billy@billyboniface.com (410) 734-6906

Mary Ann Lisanti: maryannlisanti@comcast.net (410)638-3526

Richard Slutzky: slutzky4@gmail.com (410)272-6033

PLEASE GO TO WWW.HARFORDLIBERTY.ORG to sign the petition against Bill 12-35. Together, we can turn this county toward fiscal responsibility.

For Liberty,

Christina Trotta
Steering Committee Member

Harford County Campaign for Liberty

P.S. Remember, the only way to stop bad government is to actually stop bad government.

The Harford County Campaign for Liberty needs your help to stop TIF and many other loony policies being enacted by Harford County government. Please sign our petition today to get involved with Harford C4L and make Harford government work for us!

For more information visit: HarfordLiberty.org


  1. says

    It is good that somebody is pointing out the cronyism that exists with our elected officials in Harford County. In just a couple of short years, they will stand for election– let’s see that in 2014, some of these bad incumbents are defeated. Interested in running?

  2. Bob says

    Sounds like a great deal! As long as you are in Harford County Government or a big time developer, that is. If you are are regular working stiff – not so much. If I were David Craig I would not put my house up for sale in anticipation of moving to Annapolis…..

  3. says

    It appears Harford County officials have no problem forward funding risky projects…Cronyism is a huge problem with our elected officials and Integrity is something that the voters must demand from those who claim to serve us. Harford County Taxpayers have some serious underfunded benefits packages to account for in the coming years yet the people responsible refuse to discuss these matters in an honest open manner. Count me among the those who expect better.

    • tax payer says

      You should seriously consider leaving the school board and run for County Council or State Delegate.

  4. Michele Nicholson says

    I second Rick Grambo’s position in that I, too, expect better. I applaud Councilman McMahan, who serves my district, for voting against the bill. I applaud all those who have been following the development of this TIF very closely and raising awareness for the taxpayers.

    If we want to encourage the U.S. to run off the fiscal cliff now, or most unavoidably, in the future TIF only contributes to the forward momentum.

    Two most applicable reads to better your understanding: Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt and How an Economy Grows and Why It Crashes by Peter Schiff.

  5. Sickof Stupid Stuff says

    I smell a rat…. for should I say a few rats..Here we go,,”Ripken Stadium Gate” Government doing what they will on the backs of the tax payers. Accepting money for Votes,, they should all feel cozy in Annapolis,,OHHH please!!!!! raise my Property tax again…Am keeping the posts ,so I’ll know who “NOT” to vote for again

  6. Bill says

    Grambo has alot of nerve. He supported Craig’s 100million dollar boondoggle Havre de Grace High project after 60 days of review..he should stay put and try doing a better job at Bd of Ed. Captain Jim voted for the residential TIF at Beech Tree which was far worse than the commercial one at James Run,,,Just a little Truth.

  7. Fair Government says

    Facts of the benefits of the project should be presented along with your character assassinations, campaigns cost money and local business’s have always contributed. Going back five years and to think that hard working public servants would sell their votes in order to get elected is insulting to say the least . As a long time conservative I understand elections cost money but do believe in the integrity of our elected officials. Last i looked County Property Taxes went down in the last budget. I am glad your Liberty Party is an active watch dog but you need to watch the creditably factor on your causes from what I understand the proposed uses of the James Run Development will benefit the citizens and the continued prosperity of our County.

    • C Trotta says

      Fair Government,

      Five years was not an arbitrary number; the development has been in the planning stage for five years, possibly longer. Decades of research have shown correlations between campaign contributions and voting records, and while contributions may not necessarily buy votes, they certainly buy access. These public servants should expect scrutiny when millions of dollars are on the line.

      Regarding the ‘facts of the benefits of the project’ you may reference the public speeches in favor of the TIF; the video is in the Harford County Council video archives, dated 10/16/12. I should mention, though, many of the favorable speeches were given by the interested parties. When dealing with a 30 year project, you’ll encounter estimates, conjecture, and optimism, but not much facts of the benefits.

  8. Chris says

    That’s correct, Bill, Captain Jim did vote for the Beechtree Estates TIF. But he did a lot of research into this TIF, and did not vote for it. I’m glad that three council members took a stand, and refused to bow to all the outside pressure I’m sure they received. Thank you to Mr. Woods, Mr. Shrodes and Mr. McMahan for being fiscally responsible.