The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

November 25, 2012

Tax district plan to be focus of Joplin school board meeting

By Emily Younker
Globe Staff Writer

JOPLIN, Mo. — Members of the Joplin Board of Education might not have enough information about a proposed tax increment financing district to vote on its approval at their meeting this week, the president of the board said late last week.

“I don’t know yet” if the board will vote at its meeting Tuesday, president Randy Steele said. “We could, but it may come back to the point where we have to schedule another meeting to make a decision.”

Steele said he expects board members will be updated Tuesday on recent developments with the proposed TIF district, which would encompass most of the tornado-affected zone and downtown. Officials say it would provide about $60 million in revenue from tax growth to help pay for about $806 million in redevelopment projects being envisioned. Tax money from future increased assessments in the TIF district would be reinvested in the plan.

In a Nov. 16 letter to the city’s TIF Commission, which will hold a public hearing Friday on the proposal, school officials outlined their primary concerns with the tax district. They said they were concerned that the plan would freeze the school district’s assessed valuation at a post-tornado level, which is about $34 million less than it was before the May 2011 storm.

They also expressed concern that housing redevelopment in the TIF district could bring in an additional 2,630 students, which they said would create a need to expand schools at a cost of more than $73 million and add $70 million in operating costs.

Last week, David Wallace, of Wallace Bajjali Development Partners, the city’s master developer for tornado recovery, told the Globe that his firm had a proposal for school officials that he hoped would meet their needs and answer their questions. He declined to release details of the proposal until it becomes public this week during public meetings.

School Superintendent C.J. Huff said last week that talks between the school district and the developer were continuing. He said school officials were “working hard” to resolve their issues with the TIF proposal and that he hoped to have answers to their questions as early as today.

Steele said many unanswered questions remained on the part of school board members late last week.

“We really can’t vote (on the TIF proposal) because we really don’t know what’s being proposed totally to us yet,” he said. “We’re just going to try to get as much information as we can so we can more or less do what we need to do.”

Steele said he would not “force a vote” on Tuesday if board members thought they needed more information. But the board is expected by Friday to give a vote of support or opposition to the proposal in order to guide the votes of Huff and Chief Financial Officer Paul Barr, the school district’s two representatives to the 11-member TIF Commission.

“I know there are still talks going on back and forth” among the school district, the city and the developer, Steele said. “We know there are negotiations; we know there are talks going on. We’re just kind of waiting on all the details to come in.”

Wallace has said the city must proceed as scheduled with establishing the TIF district or risk losing some of the projects outlined in the plan. The timetable calls for the public hearing on Friday, with a recommendation to go to the City Council in December.

Also scheduled on Tuesday is a board work session, at which the TIF district will be the primary topic of discussion.

Listed on the agenda for both the work session and the meeting are closed sessions for legal and real estate matters, and personnel issues.

Meeting details

THE JOPLIN BOARD OF EDUCATION
will meet for a work session at 5:30 p.m. and for its regular meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the administration building, 3901 E. 32nd St. The 7 p.m. meeting will be streamed live on the JET-14 television station.