By David Tuma
TIRZ is a fund that saves a small portion of business taxes and uses those funds for reinvestment in the community. There are certain areas of the downtown including HEB and Walmart that are included in these tax areas that create funds.
TIRZ stands for Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone and many of the façade improvement grants small businesses have been using to improve the front of their buildings come from TIRZ. In 2016, $110,000 was committed to matching façade improvement grants. Funds are matching and businesses and organization must qualify and complete the work.
One of the major projects coming up that TIRZ helped fund is the Sparta Road and Loop 121 road improvement project. Total TIRZ committed the Sparta 2017 improvement project was $286,287.
The intersection at Martin Luther King and Main Street will need to be improved. Traffic will increase as residents use the road to reach Loop 121 and the football stadium. The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor is constructing a theatre at this intersection — facility like no other in this part of the state. Heading North on Main Street, the intersection will be improved, allowing residents to turn left. There will be a public hearing dealing with these suggested improvements. TIRZ has committed $155,742 toward these improvements.
As the Belton community grows, a town with no retail businesses to speak of in the mid-1990s to today’s robust retail growth, major transition work is needed. As businesses grow, so does the tax base. Belton is not where it should be, but it isn’t where it used to be.
A little over 20-years ago, if you lived in Belton, your tax dollars went to Temple and Killeen. Belton’s TIRZ budget reflects that growth Belton has been experiencing. In 2015, the funds collected were $582,392. In 2017, funds collected for TIRZ is estimated to be $708,762. Funds that can be used has increased 21.6 percent over that time period.
Local retailers are so vital to a community if you want parks, roads and quality of life. From 2015-17 TIRZ will have contributed to $4,197,000 in local improvement projects.
In 2017, there are two planned façade improvement grants at Miller’s BBQ and the building at 100 South East Street. Each are $20,000 in matching grant funding.
Capital improvement projects are planned for Christmas wreaths for downtown, and sidewalk improvements on East Street.
In 2017, a library park is planned on the south side of the building. Pavement is being pulled up to save two live oak trees near the Lena Strong Public Library. A mini-reading section is planned where two parking places used to be.
Funds will be contributed to a new Bell County Parking lot near the old jail, signage is planned for downtown and areas leading into town, new sidewalks for the south side are planned, and water line replacement is planned for the south side of town — again TIRZ funds are used.
Possible projects planned with TIRZ funds are a 6th Ave. gateway similar in some ways to Central, East Street sidewalks, and improvements on Nolan Creek Trail.