By Jerry Black
Special to The Globe
JOPLIN, Mo. —
My concern is the devastating impact the proposed tax increment financing district will have on the Joplin School District. I’ve lived here all my life, and I want to see Joplin recover as much as anybody, but to do it at the expense of the school district is the wrong way.
This proposed TIF district is not a traditional one. We all know the TIF was designed to be a fairly small parcel of land with an incentive for developers to bring retailers in to create economic development. I can’t imagine in my wildest dreams that when the legislation was drafted to create the TIF statute that they ever intended for it to be used, or should I say misused, in such a manner.
The schools are the heartbeat of the community, and to implement a TIF district that would restrict the ability of the district to recover its funding source as the assessed value returns will simply be financially devastating.
The voters in the Joplin School District have in good faith approved the levies that support the district and assumed that is where the money would be used. Most recently in April the voters approved a 35-cent additional bond levy to enhance the recovery effort to rebuild the schools. Nowhere on that ballot was there any language to suggest this money could be unilaterally diverted for a TIF district. This is not fair to the school district or the taxpayers in the district. It may be legal, but is it ethical?
When the school district’s financial crisis becomes reality, it has two options: 1) It can cut teachers and programs to reduce the budget, or 2) It can come back to the voters for an operating levy increase. Neither of these options is very attractive. When you rob Peter to pay Paul, it never works. The school district, the taxpayer and, even worse, the students in the school district will bear the burden of this TIF. Twenty-three years is a long time.