When the new Interstate 65 exit was completed near Clark-Pleasant Middle School, the school superintendent was excited to watch the natural development of the area.
But Clark-Pleasant Community School Corp. superintendent Patrick Spray said he felt let down when he learned that the city of Greenwood wanted to create its seventh tax-increment financing, or TIF, district around the interchange, accelerating development and taking all of the new property tax revenue from it.
Spray’s disappointment grew as he learned more about the proposed TIF district, which would collect property taxes from new commercial development such as office buildings, and future multi-family development such as apartments and condominiums, too, he said.
Families living in the apartments and condos in the proposed TIF district would send their children to Clark-Pleasant schools, but if the proposed district is approved as-is, the school district would not be able to collect property taxes on the developments.
Since learning of the city’s proposal, Spray has spoken at public meetings and sought out nearly every official from the Greenwood Redevelopment Commission and city council. Spray has also met with Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers on multiple occasions.
His request: Exclude any apartment complexes or condominiums from the TIF district, allowing Clark-Pleasant to still collect that property tax money. He also is asking whether the TIF is necessary, or if the city could find other ways to spur economic development.
He said he’s concerned overall about the 25-year lifespan of TIF districts, which is the maximum length allowed by state law. The city captures revenue from property taxes as soon as the TIF district is approved, but the 25-year lifespan doesn’t begin until the city gets a loan for a project that will be paid back with TIF dollars.
If the TIF district is approved, Spray does not want the city to delay borrowing money so that the countdown begins, rather than waiting years, he said.
The meetings have been cooperative, not confrontational, Spray said. Spray said he believes some officials are seriously considering his request to exclude multi-family development. The matter has yet to come up for debate or a vote at a city council meeting.
“Some of the feedback I’ve received is it’s the right thing to do,” Spray said. “There is interest in (excluding) multi-family. We also rely on property taxes for funding and that’s one of the messages we are trying to pass on.”
The area has natural potential for development because of the interstate interchange, Spray said. And even though that development would take more time to arrive, it would still occur because of the draw of an interstate exit, Spray said.
“Could this potentially develop on its own, rather than the assumption that there’s just no way,” Spray said.
Myers agrees that development would occur, but estimates the area would take 30 to 40 years to develop without the TIF, he said.
And without TIF districts, the interchange wouldn’t have been built until 2025, Myers said. Greenwood paid about $10 million toward the state-funded interchange project to expedite the plans and that money was generated from TIF districts, Myers said.
“Clark-Pleasant has never been very supportive of TIF districts and I don’t really understand a lot of their thinking on it,” Myers said. “I continually try to explain to him (Spray) that if it were not for TIF districts, things would not build up. Roads won’t build themselves. Jobs would not be created. Businesses won’t come. But Dr. Spray has a different opinion.”
Spray said that he is concerned about striking a balance between the financial needs of cities and towns and school districts and building great communities. He wants city officials to think about other ways to accomplish projects and encourage development that wouldn’t impact the school district’s revenue stream.
He also is asking whether it is necessary to continue to put more land into a TIF district based on the money the other TIF districts generate.
Spray said he was not notified that a TIF district was being considered and didn’t learn any specifics until he saw the item on a meeting agenda.
Last month, the proposal was approved by the redevelopment commission. The Greenwood Plan Commission then passed a favorable recommendation to the city council, where the proposal awaits a vote before returning to the redevelopment commission next month for final approval.
Spray found out about the proposal on the city’s redevelopment commission agenda, he said.
He contacted city officials to set up meetings, ask questions and present the school district’s concerns.
City officials often tell him that as the city develops, some of the new industrial or commercial projects will occur outside the TIF districts, meaning Clark-Pleasant schools can collect additional property taxes.
But with the amount of property captured in TIF districts in Greenwood, and the proposed TIF near the interchange, Spray doesn’t see where or how that could be possible, he said.
“If this is needed to make development happen (sooner), OK. But what can we do to make something where everyone else can benefit,” Spray said.
Last year, Center Grove schools approached the city with the same request to exclude multi-family development from the TIF district that runs along State Road 135. The city denied the request, but encouraged the school district to come to the redevelopment commission to request funding for specific school projects.
The redevelopment commission has provided similar funding to Clark-Pleasant in the past, paying for improvements to the districts’ wireless internet connectivity throughout its schools.
Based on the outcome of Center Grove’s request to exclude apartments and condos from the TIF, it isn’t likely the same request would be approved for Clark-Pleasant, simply for the sake of treating school districts equally and fair, Myers said.
But city council president and redevelopment commission member Mike Campbell could support Spray’s request to exclude apartments and condos from the TIF district.
Like Myers, Campbell said TIF districts are responsible for the growth that has occurred and the speed in which it develops, he said. But with natural development around the Worthsville interchange, it would take longer and the city would have less control without a TIF district, Campbell said.
But Spray’s persistent efforts to meet with city officials on multiple occasions is creating a better level of cooperation, Campbell said. The proposed ideas, both starting the lifespan of the TIF district sooner and excluding apartments and condos, are possibilities, Campbell said.
“I think the TIF will pass with or without the school’s cooperation. But I would be open to excluding multi-family development. Everything Dr. Spray wants, I don’t have a problem with,” Campbell said.
“Dr. Spray isn’t going to let it rest, he’s going to be after us and that’s good that we are held accountable and forced to discuss this. Dr. Spray is really involved and I think his persistence could reward him, not so much for his effort, but that his effort is creating a better atmosphere of cooperation.”
What’s next for the proposed TIF district near the Worthsville Road interchange.
April 18: Greenwood City Council to review study detailing the projected financial impact of the new TIF district
May 2: City council to vote on creating TIF district
Later in May: Redevelopment commission to vote on final approval