Between 1981 and 2007, the City established seven tax incremental finance districts and prepared a project plan for each of the districts. The law which allows cities to use tax increment financing was created by the Wisconsin Legislature in 1975 as a financial tool for cities and villages to promote tax base expansion. The law is targeted toward eliminating blighted areas, rehabilitating areas with declining property values, and promoting industrial development. Before the tax incremental finance law was created, when a community like Wausau installed public improvements to promote private development, City property owners shouldered the cost of these improvements while all four of the property taxing jurisdictions - city, county and the two school districts - shared in the revenue generated by the tax base increase. Under tax increment financing, however, all taxing entities become financial partners in promoting the expansion of the tax base. When a tax incremental district is created, the property value within the tax increment district is established and a temporary, taxing entity is created - the tax incremental district. This new taxing entity receives all of the property taxes generated by the increase in the value of the property within the tax incremental district. For example, if the property value within a tax incremental district increases by one million dollars as a result of the public and private improvements made within the district, all of the property tax revenue generated by that one million dollar increase, including that which would normally go to the school districts and county as well as to the city, is instead allocated to the tax incremental district to pay for the public improvements and other project costs incurred by the district. City residents are no longer alone in funding certain tax base expansion projects.
Further details on the tax incremental finance law are contained in Section 66.46 of the Wisconsin Statutes, which identifies the procedures for creating, administering and terminating tax incremental districts.
Tax Incremental District No. 1 was established in 1981 and was created to finance the public improvements necessary to construct the Wausau Center Shopping Mall. Tax Incremental District Number 2 was established in 1990 to finance improvements to an approximately 160-acre site within Wausau West Business and Industrial Park. The improvements in TID #2 involved sanitary sewers, water mains and street construction. Tax Incremental District Number 3, established in 1994, is located in the Central Business District. It was established to finance some of the improvements planned for the Wausau Century Project, which included a hotel, civic/convention center, expansion of the Wausau Center Mall, new parking structures, and related development and expenditures. Although much of the project is no longer viable, the district is still in existence.
Tax Incremental Districts Number 4 and Number 5 were created in 1996 and 1997, respectively. Both of these districts are located in Wausau West Business and Industrial Park and were established to help pay for much of the infrastructure improvements needed to develop fairly large expansion areas in the Industrial Park. The new Eastbay Corporation warehouse is in District Number 5.
Tax Incremental District Number 6 was created in 2005 to encourage development of corporate offices, clinics, and retail centers in the area located generally west of US Highway 51, north of Pine Ridge Boulevard, east of Westhill Drive, and south of County Trunk Highway "U." A small area of this district located east of US Highway 51 along North 17th Avenue is the site of the River Valley State Bank development.
Tax Incremental District Number 7 was created in 2006 as a "mixed use district" and includes an area generally located between Stewart Avenue on the north, State Trunk Highway 29 on the south, 28th Avenue on the east, and 48th Avenue on the west.
In 2000, the City amended the boundaries of Tax Incremental District Number Three to include additional Central Business District land located on the north side of downtown, on either side of the Wisconsin River. Expanding the boundaries of this district allowed the City to help bridge the funding gap for the blight elimination activities related to construction of a Pick 'N Save grocery store and to also fund the continued expansion of the community's River Edge Parkway.
In 2001, the City amended the boundaries of Tax Incremental District Number Five and the Project Plan for Tax Incremental District Number Two. District Number Five, which is located in the Industrial Park, was amended by expanding the district to include 90 acres of land recently purchased by the City for Industrial Park expansion purposes. Shortly after the district was created, the company leasing land to Eastbay, Inc. purchased an option on approximately 17 acres of this property for further, long-term expansion of Eastbay's warehouse and distribution facilities.
The Amendment to Tax Incremental District Number Two involved allocating positive tax increments from this Industrial Park area to Tax Incremental District Number Three which is located in the Central Business District. Over a five-year period, approximately $2.8 million worth of tax increments generated in the Industrial Park will be used to help pay for improvements within the Central Business District Tax Incremental District Number Three.
In 2006 the City amended Tax Incremental District Number Three as a result of the North Downtown Area Master Plan which was approved by the Common Council in February, 2006 and which focuses on redevelopment in the north downtown area.
In 2007 the City approved a second amendment to Tax Incremental District Number Five to add approximately 100 acres for additional industrial development.
In 2010 the City approved a first amendment to Tax Incremental District Number Six to add two mixed-use areas totalling approximately 463.2 acres to the district and to identify the 1/2-mile buffer area radius around the amended area that may also call for projects and expenditures. The area added to the district is generally located along the west side of U.S. Highway 51, between County Trunk Highway "U" and Elm Street, and was added so that public works and other projects that were not included in the original project plan may be identified and financed.
In 2010 the City approved designating Tax Incremental District Number Four as "distressed" pursuant to Wisconsin State Statute 66.1105(4e) enacted on May 12, 2010, to extend the life of TID #4 by ten years beyond its normal termination date and allow the district to be a recipient of shared increment from a donor district (TID #2). Concurrently, the City approved designating Tax Incremental District Number Two as a "donor" district pursuant to State Statute 66.1105(6)(f) and amending its project plan accordingly to allow increment from TID #2 to be allocated to distressed TID #4.
All seven of the project plans and the seven plan amendments mentioned above are quite narrow in scope but quite detailed in terms of identifying the number, size, location and type of improvements and other expenditures made within each district, as well as the schedule of events that will occur to fully implement the project plan. All of the project plans for these districts were adopted by the Wausau Common Council following a public hearing and recommendation by the City Plan Commission. Although each of the plans have a limited geographic scope, a number of the goals and objectives listed in the documents are quite indicative of the City’s economic development policies. For example, the objectives of the City’s economic development efforts related to Tax Incremental District Number 5 include:
- Increase the employment opportunities available in the community.
- Increase the per capita income in the community.
- Increase the industrial property tax base for all taxing jurisdictions, including Marathon County, Northcentral Technical College, Wausau School District, and City of Wausau.
- Increase the availability of properly located, adequately serviced industrial sites.
- Accommodate new industries and the expansion of existing industries in the Industrial Park by extending and upgrading the needed infrastructure.
- Identify feasible and appropriate means of installing and financing the improvements necessary to market the industrial land within TID #5.