City and school officials are to decide within the next week if they will help pay for improvements to Worthington Square through Tax Increment Financing (TIF).

City and school officials are to decide within the next week if they will help pay for improvements to Worthington Square through Tax Increment Financing (TIF).

TIFs essentially divert property taxes on improvements back into an account that would pay for certain improvements to the mall.

The Worthington Board of Education was to discuss the proposal at its meeting on Nov. 22, and Worthington City Council set special sessions to discuss the TIF on Nov. 23 and 29.

Worthington resident Tom Carter, along with Walter Floyd and Bill Morris of Morris Capital Partners in Texas, plan to purchase the struggling mall from GE Equities. A December closing date is expected.

If the school board and council agree, a TIF district would be created for Worthington Square.

This economic development tool diverts tax dollars generated above the base value of the property into a TIF fund, which is used for designated improvements that enhance the property for public use.

The value of a piece of property - in this case $6-million - is essentially locked in at the time the TIF is approved. As the value of the property increases, the schools and city do not receive additional property tax dollars. Instead, those dollars are placed in the TIF fund.

These redirected funds then go to pay for improvements to the property.

Improvements may include a public park/community gathering space; a new pedestrian street; streetscape amenities; paving; landscaping; facade renovations; new parking spaces; new driveways; realignment of the entry drive; sealing the parking areas; demolition of portions of the property; new exterior entryways; and utility work.

The TIF would be good for 30 years, which is the limit set by Ohio law.

Under the agreement being considered, when the value of the property reaches $18.5-million, the schools will receive 85 percent of the tax amount on the new value. When the value reaches $21.5-million, the schools will receive 80 percent.

When the value reaches a ceiling of $24.5-million, the schools will receive 100 percent of the tax amount.

According to a written statement from the city, all partners see the value in the arrangement.

"This is an example of the city of Worthington and Worthington School District working together for the purpose of economic development," said school district treasurer Jeff McCuen. "It is in the best interest of the entire community to work toward the development of Worthington Square as an anchor for ongoing development."