Two school districts and a library are waiting for a Greenwood board to decide how or if it will pay for their future projects.
Officials from the Greenwood Public Library, Greenwood Community Schools and Clark-Pleasant schools have asked the city to consider funding their projects to repair a parking lot, replace water pipes and buy school buses. So far, no funding has been promised.
Their project ideas have to wait, even though two city boards approved new rules earlier this year that give the schools and library the chance to get tax-increment financing, or TIF, money to pay for needed work.
The city redevelopment commission will be able to pay for school and library projects with funds collected in an expansion to its eastside TIF district. But the council and city redevelopment commission just approved that expansion earlier this year and it hasn’t accumulated money yet. And the city board hasn’t created a process for the schools and library to request and receive TIF money.
The school districts and library are looking to the city for TIF dollars to fund their projects because they won’t be collecting property taxes on new development in the area where the TIF district is being expanded. TIF districts collect property taxes on new development in a designated area to spend on redevelopment projects, such as street widening and other infrastructure work, and that money does not go to other local governments, such as schools and libraries. The city redevelopment commission oversees spending of TIF money.
Clark-Pleasant schools will be particularly hurt by the TIF district expansion because caps that limit how much governments can collect in property taxes have made the school district unable to afford to replace buses, buy laptops and hire new teachers. The library also has struggled financially due to the tax caps.
Officials from Greenwood schools and the library have talked about what they would request TIF funds to pay for, but Clark-Pleasant Superintendent Patrick Spray has gone to the city and asked for help. He repeatedly asked at city council and redevelopment commission meetings for TIF money to pay for the schools’ needs, such as new buses. When he makes another plea for funding, he may pose different projects if Greenwood has guidelines for how it might use TIF funds to help the district, Spray said.
City officials have mentioned using the money for projects that benefit both the city and schools, such as parks or green space, but Spray is concerned the funding won’t be used in ways the school district needs, he said. Parks or green space might be a bigger priority to the city, while new technology to expose students to science, technology, engineering and math careers would help the school, Spray said.
Officials from the city have talked with the library director and the superintendents of both school districts and are working to clarify what types of projects the city can use TIF money to pay for. As Spray and Greenwood schools Superintendent Kent DeKoninck have spoken with city officials, they have adapted their planned proposals to meet needs and follow state law.
Spray’s hope to get laptops or new school buses may instead become a request for technology for science, technology, engineering and math education, he said. That use of TIF dollars could benefit the community by growing the local workforce in those career fields, he said.
The Greenwood library is hoping to get money to replace aging sewer pumps and redo its asphalt parking lot and cracked sidewalks, which altogether would cost more than $200,000. Those should fit the purpose of TIF money, which is intended to pay for infrastructure projects, director Cheryl Dobbs said.
Initially, DeKoninck said he was interested in getting TIF money to replace water pipes and old heating and air conditioning systems. Talks with the city have reshaped his plans.
“One of the things the general conversation centered on were on those projects that are long-lasting, enduring projects,” DeKoninck said.
If the district gets TIF money, then it will need to be used for projects that benefit both the district and the city, such as playground equipment or new sidewalks leading to schools, he said. But he’s not going to propose any work until the redevelopment makes rules for what qualifies for TIF money, he said.
The redevelopment commission sometime this year will make procedures for the school districts and library to ask for some of the TIF money, board president Mike Tapp said. The board has not had a formal process in place for other governments to ask for help.
“It’s nothing urgent because we don’t have any money. It’s going to take a while to build that up,” he said. “On the other hand, we know the schools and library want to know what we’re doing. They’d like to know what our plan is because it affects their planning for infrastructure needs.”