TIF members discuss final details of revolving loan fund

by Mary Grow

Members of China’s Tax Increment Finance (TIF) Committee and its Revolving Loan Fund subcommittee spent much of the March 25 TIF meeting discussing final details of the revolving loan fund they hope will soon be accepting applications. No final decisions were made.

The loans are intended to provide small amounts local businesspeople need when their own funds and commercial loans do not entirely cover costs of a new business or an expansion. Committee members mentioned loans between $5,000 and $25,000. Town Manager Dennis Heath said one China businessman has approached him about a small loan.

The manager, who oversees TIF finances, said $25,000 was appropriated for the loan fund in each of the first two years and $30,000 in the next two years. No money has yet been loaned out. Committee members debated whether the loan fund should continue to grow or whether at some point its funds should be reallocated to other TIF purposes.

Assisted by Kennebec Valley Council of Governments community planner Joel Greenwood, committee members also talked about what they need to do to complete defining the application process; whether they should try to meet soon after an application is received or schedule regular meetings twice or four times a year to review applications; what interest rate should be charged and whether it should be variable depending on factors like collateral offered or length of the loan; and planning to deal with delinquent borrowers.

Heath said China’s state-approved TIF plan allocates $900,000 for loans over the 30-year period of the TIF. Committee members accepted his offer to talk with state officials about amending China’s plan to allow more flexibility in allocating money among needs.

TIF money comes from taxes paid by Central Maine Power Company on its transmission line that runs north-south through China and its South China substation.

Heath and committee members see two ongoing community-wide projects eligible for TIF funding, snowmobile trails managed by the China Four Seasons Club and the annual China Days celebration. One-time projects so far include the causeway work at the head of China Lake’s east basin, now beginning its third year, and perhaps a future application to provide a building in the China School Forest behind China Primary School.

Pending work at the head of the lake includes applying for a state permit to improve the small parking area across Causeway Street from the boat landing, now that Susan Bailey has agreed to sell it to the town; putting the final coat of paving on the new bridge; and designing and building improvements to the shore between the bridge and the boat landing.

If the parking area is approved, Heath expects it will make China eligible to seek a state grant to improve the boat landing. Also, he said, Central Maine Power Company will be changing China’s streetlights to LEDs and adding lights, including one or more along the causeway.

Committee members scheduled their next meeting for Monday evening, May 6, skipping the usual last Monday of the month because Heath said selectmen will meet Monday evening, April 29.


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