It appears Lancaster’s CRIZ authority had so much revenue to distribute this year that it ran short of eligible recipients.
“CRIZ” stands for “City Revitalization & Improvement Zone.” Through it, the state government returns eligible taxes paid by businesses in a designated zone to the local CRIZ Authority to fund economic development. Unused funds must be returned to the state.
This year, that amounted to $7.15 million. The CRIZ board duly doled out 40% of that, or $2.87 million, to local businesses and development projects at its November meeting.
Almost all the rest, amounting to nearly $4 million, or just over 55%, went toward principal and interest on $6.1 million the CRIZ Authority borrowed in 2015 from Fulton Bank. The remaining $328,500, a little under 5%, went toward administrative and professional expenses.
In 2018, by comparison, more than three-quarters of that year’s $6.4 million in CRIZ funds went to businesses or projects. Nearly $1.2 million, or 18%, went to debt service and 5% to administration and professional services.
This year, the largest allocation went to the Lancaster County Convention Center Authority. It received $900,000, the last installment of $5 million the CRIZ has provided over seven years for updates to the convention center’s furnishings and equipment.
The payments were established as part of a 2014 agreement that secured new terms for the convention center’s construction debt, including a county guarantee.
Nearly $700,000 in CRIZ funds generated by the Marriott hotel next door will go toward debt service on the hotel’s new tower, which opened this year.
Nearly $1 million is going to three projects in the 100 block of North Queen Street: Ewell Plaza, the Christian Street Garage and the Holiday Inn Lancaster, formerly known as the Hotel Lancaster. The block has been a priority for revitalization and was the flagship project in the city’s application for admission to the CRIZ program in 2013.
More than $300,000 is going to equipment replacement and painting at Clipper Magazine Stadium.
CRIZ revenue has risen every year since the program was established. The 70% increase seeen in 2018 was seen as an anomaly at the time, but 2019’s even higher figure suggests that it wasn’t, acting CEO Randy Patterson said.
The local authority has been seeking to expand the CRIZ program’s accessibility, particularly to smaller entities. This year it launched a pilot grant program, which will evolve next year into a fully fledged business assistance program underwritten by a $5 million revolving fund.
Companies will be eligible to receive grants up to $25,000 or borrow up to $100,000.