To TIF or not to TIF?

The School Board is being asked by the city of Rock Hill to take part in a “Tax Increment Financing” (TIF) agreement.  The proposed TIF is for the redevelopment of “blighted” areas, i.e., primarily 10.3 acres near East Main and Elizabeth Lane in downtown Rock Hill.  It is intended to give the City the funds it needs in the short term to invest in infrastructure and improvements.  This will supposedly convince new private developers to invest in the area and thereby increase property values and tax revenues from that area.

Agreeing to this TIF proposal will mean that Rock Hill Schools will for up to 25 years give up its right to receive new tax revenue that may be generated by the City’s improvements and subsequent new development in the area designated.  In earlier TIFs the Board agreed with only the prospect of the eventual benefit from the increased value of the properties in the designated area.

However, this proposal includes an offer from the City to “sweeten the deal” and the Board has also negotiated for additional accommodations.  In the City’s initial approach to the Board about the TIF the City offered to assume paying the salaries of uniformed police officers (School Resource Officers) already working at the 4 middle and 2 high schools plus the Flex Learning Center which are within city limits.  These salaries amount to slightly over $364,000 annually and will include increments for inflation and for officers for any new schools build.

The Board has discussed this issue over several meetings.  The twenty-five year limit was an issue in case the area revitalizes significantly; Rock Hill Schools would be stuck for years still not receiving the business tax benefits which might come from the included area.  Further analysis indicated that Rock Hill Schools would not lose money in this or any eventuality if we only agreed to forfeit revenue for $11.5 million of borrowed funds.  Once that amount in business tax is generated from the area whether at 25 years or not, then the Schools may withdraw from the TIF Agreement.  The City agreed with this.

Getting the same police officer services in our schools without having to pay for them is a benefit for our district this year and in the future.  Both the City and the School District will benefit from the increased business activity and the associated increase in school enrollment that the redevelopment projects will bring.  Under these conditions a positive action by the Board is recommended by Rock Hill Schools administration.  The Board vote on this agreement will take place on Monday, January 23, 2012.

I would be pleased to hear the opinions of our community.  If you have comments, I may be reached at jjsharp@rhmail.org.

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