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Council splits over larger tax district

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This time, the requests from the leader of Clark-Pleasant schools were direct: Exclude a Greenwood company’s recent expansions from a special taxing district and include school officials in spending decisions.

Clark-Pleasant Schools Superintendent Patrick Spray for the fourth time asked a Greenwood board for help paying for the schools’ needs, such as new buses. The school district is the fastest-growing in Johnson County and has more than $116 million in debt because of several building projects, including new middle and intermediate schools, to accommodate the added students.

The Greenwood City Council split Tuesday over Spray’s request that measuring device manufacturer Endress+Hauser’s most recent building projects be excluded from a tax-increment financing, or TIF, district.

“I’m for helping schools,” council member Thom Hord said. “I think you way overspent. Now you’re looking for help getting out of that.”

Over 15 years, the school district built or remodeled more than 10 schools due to projected enrollment growth. The projects were planned or built prior to state lawmakers capping property taxes in 2008, and the district would have made different decisions if its leaders had known how their budget would be strapped, Spray said.

How they voted

These Greenwood City Council members voted in favor of the TIF district expansion: Linda Gibson, Ezra Hill, David Hopper and Thom Hord

These members voted no: Bruce Armstrong, Ron Bates, Mike Campbell and Brent Corey

Absent: Tim McLaughlin

“If I were building buildings today as opposed to pre-tax caps, they would look a lot different,” he said.

TIF districts capture property taxes on new development and increased property values in a designated geographic area. The city redevelopment commission oversees the spending of more than $7 million collected in the TIF districts each year.

A Greenwood TIF district captures property tax revenue and keeps it in city coffers for economic development projects. The library, schools, township and other governments do not get to collect taxes on the new development.

The council voted 4-4 Tuesday on whether to expand the city’s eastside TIF district. Since they couldn’t reach a decision, the council will meet to vote again. If the measure passes and gets final approval from the redevelopment commission, it would double the area where property taxes are captured to pay for economic development projects.

Council members Brent Corey and Mike Campbell want to exclude from the expanded TIF district recent expansions by Endress+Hauser for a new customer center and Flowtec manufacturing building. If it’s excluded from the TIF district, taxes on the Flowtec building’s property value of $8.5 million would be divided among schools, the library, the county, city, township and other local governments.

If it is included in the TIF district, Greenwood keeps the taxes.

Endress+Hauser’s projects should be included in the expanded TIF area because the city has given the company tax breaks over the years, Mayor Mark Myers said.

“I don’t think we gave tax abatements to go TIF them,” Campbell said.

But the city should get a return on its investment in Endress+Hauser by adding its projects to the TIF district, council member Linda Gibson said. Besides Endress+Hauser’s buildings, companies Cellofoam, Nachi and Skillman have projects that would be added to the TIF district if the expansion is approved by the March 1 property assessment deadline.

Council member Bruce Armstrong voted no, saying the city appears to be trying to spend a large amount of money wherever it wants by growing the area where TIF funds can be spent. Council member Ron Bates said he has opposed expanding the TIF district because economic development should be done by private people and companies.

The mayor and the Greenwood Redevelopment Commission want to add 2,000 acres to the eastside TIF district, doubling its size and including more of downtown and land from County Line Road to the southern edge of the city. By enlarging the TIF district, the city would be able to collect tax money from more businesses as they grow and expand and will be able to spend that money in more areas of the city, such as in downtown Greenwood for projects to widen streets and sidewalks and add bike paths.

If the city doesn’t work with the school district, state lawmakers could be critical of the TIF district expansion, Campbell said. During the 2013 legislative session, Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, mentioned Greenwood’s spending of TIF money on a city pool as a bad example of how TIF dollars can be spent, Campbell said. Smith pushed for a bill that would limit where TIF funds can be spent.

“I’m concerned that this is going to look bad publicly, and there’s potential that the state could get involved,” Campbell said. “I like TIF, and I want to protect it.”

Council member Tim McLaughlin was absent, allowing for the tied vote.

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