A Greenwood board won’t pay for the full cost of a project to upgrade wireless Internet at four Clark-Pleasant school buildings but has offered to pay more than half.
In May, the school district asked for nearly $740,000 in tax dollars from the Greenwood Redevelopment Commission to install cables, wireless access points and switches throughout four school buildings. The project will provide stronger, faster wireless Internet for students using laptops, tablets and other devices in school, which could help Clark-Pleasant schools eventually provide devices to every student.
But the commission denied the full amount and instead will give the district nearly $440,000 once Clark-Pleasant comes up with the rest. Commission members decided not to fund the initial request because they disagreed over how much the city should help the school district, which is partially outside Greenwood.
School officials said the money was needed because Clark-Pleasant has been hard hit by property tax caps, which limit how much local governments can collect, and has had to slash funding for capital projects for years, according to the school district’s request.
This year, Clark-Pleasant is losing about $3.6 million due to tax caps, which is about 17 percent of the taxes the district would collect if the caps didn’t exist. Those multimillion-dollar tax cap losses have been occurring for years, so the school district has had to reduce spending on capital projects and bus replacement in order to pay debt, staff and other operating expenses.
Those financial struggles were part of the reason board members didn’t want to fund the school district’s request. But Superintendent Patrick Spray disagrees and feels Greenwood should be willing to help.
“Clark-Pleasant schools and Greenwood are not separate entities. We are the same,” Spray said. “We service the same community, families, businesses and schools.”
The redevelopment commission voted 3-2 to give the school district $440,000 in tax-increment financing district funds. Board members Mike Tapp, Brent Tilson and Mike Campbell voted in favor of the measure, and Bryan Harris and Thom Hord voted against.
“I’m not real sympathetic to (Clark-Pleasant’s) financial woes. I think they have overbuilt and got themselves into this situation,” Tapp said.
Hord said he didn’t think the project should be the redevelopment commission’s responsibility.
“Clark-Pleasant schools are great schools, Whiteland is a great community, but it’s not Greenwood’s responsibility to enhance their schools and community,” Hord said. “I just don’t feel like that’s our job. I don’t think we should be giving them money for (the project).”
Tilson raised concern about how long it would take the district to come up with the rest of the money. The commission didn’t want to give the school district money if there were uncertainties about how or when Clark-Pleasant would come up with its half of the cost.
The commission agreed to fund about 60 percent of the request — the percentage of Clark-Pleasant students that officials estimated live in the city of Greenwood. The commission members also said they would not give the money to the school district until it came up with the rest.
School officials had expected the commission likely wouldn’t fund the entire project and are satisfied with the result, Spray said. He added he was not surprised by commission members’ resistance or their point of view toward using TIF funds to pay for the project.
“(The members’) comments are pretty telling in that they see a vast separation between Greenwood versus Clark-Pleasant families and Greenwood versus other school systems,” Spray said. “(It’s a) lack of recognition that our communities are growing and overlapping.”
Clark-Pleasant officials have begun to review the budget and will meet with the school board to decided which funds they will use to cover the district’s end of the deal, Spray said.