Early in this new budget year, we’ve heard a few questions about why the city continues to spend money on certain projects. One recurring question asks why we are continuing plans to build a festival ground with a water feature in the Wolf Pen Creek area. Why spend funds on that project when the city still needs money to pay for infrastructure elsewhere?
For the answer, we have to look back more than 20 years.
In 1988, a tax increment financing district (TIF) was established for the Wolf Pen Creek area. This district had a term of 20 years and allowed the city to capture any increase in property taxes assessed by Brazos County, College Station Independent School District and the city from that area to spend on improvements within the WPC district boundaries. This increment could only be spent in this specific district. Citizen groups were formed to advise councils on the proposed improvements and projects started happening.
As development occurred in the district, property values rose and the increment increased, providing funds for additional improvements. In 2005, an agreement was made with nearby property owners to provide the city with the final pieces of land needed to construct the second phase of the WPC trail system, which obligated the city to spend $1.2 million on a water feature.
Fast forward to today and we have reached the end of the TIF. Remaining funds must be spent on projects located in that area. The Wolf Pen Creek TIF Advisory Board recommended that the final project should be a festival ground incorporating the contractually obligated water feature. The increment of tax revenue that has been set aside for the past 20 years will return to the city’s general fund and will once again be available for other city services and projects.
Although the money to construct the festival grounds and water feature will come from the Wolf Pen Creek TIF Fund, the costs of operating and maintaining the facilities – estimated at $170,000 annually — will come from the general fund. Revenue that previously went exclusively toward the TIF is projected to cover these costs. The project will not only enhance the Wolf Pen Creek corridor’s reputation as a popular event and entertainment venue, it also will help attract an even wider variety of activities.