Academy Sports project could be moving forward

Staff Writer

A project to bring an Academy Sports store to Starkville could be moving forward at Tuesday's Starkville Board of Aldermen meeting.

A public hearing will be held for the planned sporting goods store in Starkville at 5:30 p.m., at City Hall, 110 W. Main Street. Following the hearing, the board will vote on the development and reimbursement agreement for the project that would include a $1.5 million Tax Increment Financing bond.

The agreement—if approved—would allow for 100 percent of all city property taxes and 33 percent of all generated sales taxes within the planned district near Highway 12 on Stark Road for the TIF bond, according to Mayor Parker Wiseman.

"With the developer willing to make a commitment to do the project under those terms, I will recommend the board raises the sales tax pledge," Wiseman said.

Following the Jan. 5 board meeting, differences arose between the city and Multisite Properties—the developer—after Multisite asked for a $1.8 million TIF bond. The city set parameters for a TIF bond not to exceed $1.5 million and the discrepancy caused Golden Triangle Development LINK officials to call the offer "unacceptable" following the meeting. The proposed adjustment in sales tax revenues quelled any lingering issues, Wiseman said.

"[The 33 percent] I am comfortable with," Wiseman said. "It limits our exposure because the ratio is still good. It would leave the city with 67 percent of the sales tax for the general fund."

The planned $11 million, 62,000 square foot mixed use development would include a restaurant near the Academy Sports, according to Gouras and Associates attorney Chris Gouras. The store could generate $26 million in annual retail sales, he said.

After the project is completed, the district's city real and personal property taxes would increase $24,000 and increase by $55,000 annually for the county following construction, according to Gouras. Under the proposed agreement, Oktibbeha County would pledge 50 percent of the county property taxes within the planned district.

TIF funds—if approved by a municipality—provide basic infrastructure improvements in the designated district. Through TIF districts, developments are able to promote further economic growth in the area where funds were originally allocated after being listed on the tax registry.

If approved, Oktibbeha County would enter into an Interlocal Cooperation Agreement with the city to allow TIF bond proceeds to be used to pay for the costs of the infrastructure improvements to support the project.

Currently, the city is liable for $102,387 in property and $954,239 sales taxes annually for pledged TIF projects including the planned Parker-McGill car dealership, Middleton Court shopping center, Cotton Mill Marketplace and The Mill at Mississippi State University, according to a Jan. 5 presentation by Wiseman.

Sales tax revenues are less reliable than property tax revenues since not all sales in a new retail development can be considered new sales, he said.

"Not all sales tax revenue generated from a new retail development is new revenue for the city," Wiseman said. "If you get the ratio out of balance, it can end up costing the city more than the site produces in taxes. A 37 to 67 percent ratio is still a very conservative ratio. That means this site should safely generate more tax dollars than are committed for the TIF plan."

The developers are hoping to begin work in February to have the store open for the fall 2016 shopping season, Gouras said.