Concerns voiced over shift in Missoula Redevelopment Agency money

Posted at 8:53 AM, Aug 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-23 10:53:16-04

MISSOULA – Missoula Redevelopment Agency (MRA) Director Ellen Buchanan says a “one time shift” of $2.7 million will help the city, and other jurisdictions, through this year’s budget crunch.

But she’s is also warning that the move leaves little in the pot to help new economic development projects that might come along. The MRA is tasked with overseeing the Tax Increment Financing monies which are used in a variety of ways to promote local investment.

Earlier this week the MRA board went along with a plan to make a “one-time” remittance of $2.7 million to help the City of Missoula, Missoula County and Missoula County Public Schools regroup from an unexpected drop in assessed valuations from the state.

Buchanan has told the Missoula City Council that MRA can help but moving the money leaves precious little to help new projects.

“We’ve got very little left to work with for the rest of this fiscal year in terms of projects that may walk through the door," Buchanan said. So, it’s how much opportunity do you want lost?”

Buchanan told MTN News that the MRA has been fielding a lot of calls from investors and clients who worry the budget shift will jeopardize their projects. But she says projects already in progress, or planned — like the massive Riverfront Triangle Development and Hotel Fox — won’t be impacted by the decision.

Still, most council members worry. Although Councilman Jesse Ramos argued the MRA funds could help fund an additional police officer the department requested the idea that failed to get support.

“It just seems like an absolutely foolhardy judiciary decision. And I understand that this is hopefully just a one time. I think it’s not the ideal by any means. And we should not do this ever again," Missoula City Councilwoman Heather Harp said.

“It’s helping the county. It’s not going to build a walking bridge, I understand that. But I would hardly call it foolhardy or a penalty to take more of this money," Missoula City Councilman Jesse Ramos replied.

Buchanan says two immediate projects that will still progress are the cleanup of Broadway Island on the Clark Fork River and the walking trail along West Broadway.