The state auditor released more than $300,000 in previously unclaimed funds for the city of Baxter.
Auditor Pat Anderson announced the release Tuesday. Distribution of the money was withheld by state law until Baxter filed overdue tax-increment financing reports for 2000, 2001 and 2002.
In the interim, the money was kept by Crow Wing County.
In September, the state announced Baxter was one of two cities leaving a substantial amount of money unclaimed because the TIF reports were not filed. The other city was Virginia.
At the time, Baxter officials said they were working to file the necessary paperwork. But Jeremy Vacinek, finance director, said the 2002 audit and the city's preliminary budget and levy had been priorities. Vacinek said the city did not have any projects in the works to use the funds.
Tax-increment money is restricted in use to economic development. The TIF district, which dates back to 1984, covers the Westport Mall and movie theater area in Baxter.
When the issue first arose, Baxter was without a city administrator. And Vacinek had just succeeded Jim Wiegel as the city's finance director.
Tax-increment financing allows communities to buy and clear land, install sewers and do other work to attract private development. Costs are repaid from the additional property-tax revenue produced by the redeveloped land.
Baxter City Planner Todd Holman declined to comment on the fund release, referring comments to Vacinek and Dennis Coryell, city administrator, both were unavailable for comment Wednesday afternoon.
The state reported Manhattan Beach now is the only remaining TIF authority not in compliance with reporting obligations.
RENEE RICHARDSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5852.
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