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Library, schools seek TIF money

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Another school district and a library plan to follow the example of Clark-Pleasant schools and ask to use set-aside property taxes for construction projects they can’t afford.

The Greenwood City Council this week approved doubling the size of a tax-increment financing district and advising the city redevelopment commission to consider funding school and library building projects when spending tax dollars set aside for economic development.

Cheryl Dobbs, director of the Greenwood Public Library, and Kent DeKoninck, superintendent of Greenwood Community School Corp., both said they plan to ask for some of the money collected in tax-increment financing, or TIF, districts for projects, such as water pipe replacement and tearing out and repairing a parking lot.

TIF districts collect property taxes on new development in a designated area, to be spent on redevelopment projects such as street widening and other infrastructure work. Schools, the library and other local governments do not collect property taxes on the new development as they would if the TIF district didn’t exist. The current eastside TIF district earns about $6 million annually.

If the city redevelopment commission gives a final approval to expanding the TIF district Friday, it will grow to 4,000 acres and include part of downtown and the south side of the city. City council members also approved an amendment that, if approved by the redevelopment commission, would give school and library projects priority consideration for TIF money alongside Greenwood downtown redevelopment projects, such as marketing the current city building after the offices are moved out and taxiway rehabilitation work at the airport.

Clark-Pleasant Community School Corp. Superintendent Patrick Spray has asked Greenwood for financial help because the school district can’t afford to buy new buses or laptops. He asked the city to consider giving cash to the schools, leasing buses on behalf of the school or setting aside money in an account for school projects.

Greenwood schools likely will ask for help paying to replace old heating and air conditioning systems for schools and for new water pipes in the middle school, DeKoninck said. Water pipes that were more than 50 years old at the middle school burst during the summer, and they need to be replaced, he said.

Property tax caps have limited how much school districts can collect in capital project and transportation funds, pinching the school district’s budget, he said. Officials don’t yet have to put off roof sealing or other building maintenance, but expanding the TIF district will limit how much the schools will get in future property taxes. If state lawmakers decide to eliminate the business personal property tax, revenue could shrink further, he said.

That means the cost of increasing the schools’ computer bandwidth, buying new laptops and replacing or adding security cameras could require other funding, such as getting some of the property taxes the TIF district collects, he said.

The goal wouldn’t be to ask regularly for money from the city or to have it always pay for certain school district needs but to get help as needed, he said.

“Our intent is not going to be, ‘Now is the time to ask the RDC to take over all that,’” DeKoninck said.

The Greenwood Public Library already has needs it could use help with, such as replacing its parking lot and sidewalks, Dobbs said.

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