By Debby Woodin
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Talks aimed at hashing out a tax increment financing compromise are under way between the city of Joplin and the Joplin School District as the city’s master developer pushes forward to form a TIF district for redevelopment.
The existing TIF proposal hit sticking points on Friday when the school district said it needed additional financial considerations. The school district said the TIF district, as proposed, would create revenue losses and increased costs.
“I think from our perspective we are wanting to negotiate in good faith with the school district, and, to that end, we are sending a proposal to the school district that we are optimistic meets all of the concerns and questions that the school district has raised,” David Wallace, CEO of Wallace Bajjali Development Partners, Joplin’s master developer for tornado recovery, said Wednesday by telephone.
“Consequently, we are hopeful that we will have an agreement in principle and that the superintendent will be able to report that to the school board on Nov. 27 and get their support in connection with this plan.”
Joplin’s school superintendent, C.J. Huff, said talks he believes will be productive had taken place Tuesday and Wednesday, but he did not receive an offer to settle the issue.
“We are having some real good discussions,” he said. “We continue to support a proposal for potential for growth and development of the city, and we are really working hard to resolve some of these issues” that could affect the school district in the future. “Basically, we’re trying to be sure to sustain the funds to provide the programs and the budget for the growth that will come along because of the redevelopment.”
He said the school district hopes to receive the answers next Monday to questions it posed at a meeting last Tuesday of the city’s Tax Increment Finance Commission.
Wallace would not disclose the details of the discussions regarding the sticking points that arose Friday. He said those would become public next week at public meetings.
“I respect completely the school district’s position,” Wallace said. He said his firm has reviewed the school district’s information, “and we feel we have come up with a satisfactory solution as opposed to if the TIF were not created.”
School administrators said last week they were concerned that the TIF 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 tornado. They said that would cost the school district nearly $22 million over the 23-year duration of the TIF district.
The plan calls for the TIF district’s tax baseline to be set at the level after the tornado happened. The school district wants it to be set at the district’s assessed valuation before the tornado, plus 1.5 percent a year for growth.
The school district had been offered $12 million in payments in lieu of taxes from the TIF district to offset losses from future growth in that assessed value.
The school district also contended that housing projects proposed in the TIF plan would bring an influx of 2,630 new students to the district, which would create a need to expand schools at a cost of more than $73 million and add $70 million in operating costs.
Wallace said his firm is looking at those numbers.
He has previously said that the housing projects that are part of the plan would replace housing based on the amount of housing that was available before the tornado. Some new housing is intended to be marketed to senior citizens or professional singles or couples who are without school-age children.
The TIF district as proposed would take in the hardest-hit section of the tornado zone, and extend north on Main Street and take in downtown. Officials say it would provide about $60 million in revenue from tax growth to help pay for $806 million in redevelopment projects, including housing, retail space, a new public library and movie theater, a minor league ballpark, and an arts and museum complex. Tax money from future increased assessments in the TIF district would be reinvested in the plan.
On Friday, Nov. 30, the TIF Commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing for comments that will be considered when the City Council is called on to decide whether to adopt the proposal.
Wallace hopes to forge an agreement before then.
AN INFORMATION SESSION to explain the tax increment financing plan to the public and answer questions that residents may have is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 602 S. Main St.