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TIF compromise: City vows to consider schools, library

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The Greenwood City Council approved doubling the size of a special taxing district, with a promise to consider school and library building projects when spending tax dollars set aside for economic development.

The city is expanding its eastside tax-increment financing, or TIF, district, to include more of downtown and running nearly parallel to U.S. 31 between County Line Road and the city’s southern edge. TIF districts capture the property taxes on new development and increased valuation in an area; and schools, libraries and other governments don’t collect the taxes as they would usually.

The amendment the council approved for the TIF district expansion would give other local governments, such as the schools and library, a way to get back money captured in the TIF.

Clark-Pleasant schools Superintendent Patrick Spray has said expanding the TIF district would take money from the school district, which doesn’t have the funds to replace schools buses or buy new laptops for students. Spray has repeatedly asked the city to consider helping Clark-Pleasant financially by giving the schools money, not expanding the TIF district or by excluding some large commercial building projects from the TIF area.

Greenwood schools Superintendent Kent DeKoninck also asked for assurance that, if his school district needs money, the city will seriously consider his requests.

What the council chose to do was move forward with the expansion, meaning the TIF district will collect all the property tax dollars from Endress+Hauser’s new building and expansion, as well as other new development in the area. But the redevelopment commission would be able to give the schools and libraries priority for TIF funding and approve their projects as promoting economic development.

The redevelopment commission would have to approve the amended TIF expansion Friday.

“It was just a try to accommodate and be good stewards with the money for the whole community,” council member Brent Corey said.

The city council likely will form a committee within the next few months to consider guidelines for the schools and library on projects that would be eligible for funding, he said.

The city council had split previously on whether to include two multimillion-dollar Endress+Hauser building projects in the expanded TIF district but dropped the issue this week. The city would earn roughly $450,000 in property tax money on those projects, and Clark-Pleasant would only get about one-ninth of that if the buildings were excluded from the TIF, according to Sam Hodson, an attorney representing the mayor.

Calculating the precise dollar amounts the school district would lose or gain is impossible due to tax caps and levy limitations, but the TIF district would collect far more than the schools would on Endress+Hauser’s projects, Corey said.

“If we capture the TIF money, we’d get more bang for our buck,” he said.

The amendment gives the schools and library projects consideration that might not have been prioritized before and exempts them from the usual five-meeting process necessary to add outside projects to the TIF district’s plans, city attorney Krista Taggart said.

“It turned out to be a solution that really works for all of us,” DeKoninck said.

The change was a good compromise, but it’s not specific enough to alleviate all concerns, Greenwood Public Library director Cheryl Dobbs said.

While the city could allow TIF money to be spent on library building projects, the rules don’t specify the kinds of projects or the amount of financial need the library will have to show, she said.

Whether the schools and other local governments get money will be decided by the redevelopment commission, and it likely will need to set money aside for school projects to fit in the city board’s budget, Spray said.

“I’m eager to see what the redevelopment commission does with the amendment. At this point, nothing has been identified, and no dollars have been set aside,” Spray said. “I’m optimistic that with this amendment there will be opportunities for all parties to work together and share with the growth in the area.”

The amendment to the TIF proposal was approved with an 8-0 vote. The council approved the amended proposal with a 7-1 vote. Council member Bruce Armstrong voted no, and council member Ron Bates was absent.

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