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School trustees are against redevelopment

by Andy Bourelle

Redevelopment has another critic.

The Douglas County school district and board of trustees are against redevelopment.

“From our perspective, it’s not good for the school district,” Rick Kester, the school district’s director of business services, said Thursday. “We’re not arguing against new development. We just think there are other ways to finance it.”

Because of the way redevelopment obtains funding, Kester said, over the next 30 years the school district could lose $10 million to $12 million more than it would if the development came as a result of another funding source.

From the start, the school district has been opposed to redevelopment, and, now the school board feels the same way. At the board’s Wednesday meeting, trustees listened to a presentation by Douglas County Manager Dan Holler and discussed redevelopment. They took no action regarding redevelopment, but board members walked away unanimously against the project.

“It was sort of the consensus of everyone. We all stated our objections to the project,” Don Forrester, the school board’s vice chair, said Thursday. “We think there are other ways to fund infrastructure. To take away from schools and give to retailers is not the way to do it.”

“(The district administration and trustees) have a great deal of respect for Dan Holler and for the county commissioners, but the school district would prefer that the county find a different way to finance it,” Kester said. “There are other ways to finance it that wouldn’t be a mortgage on our future.”

The preliminary redevelopment project area encompasses about 1,700 acres, including property north and south of Jacks Valley Road, the Ridgeview community, a portion of the Little Mondeaux, the Genoa Lakes Planned Development, the Town of Genoa and Walley’s Hot Springs Resort.

Redevelopment is funded through a tax increment finance mechanism. Property tax rates in those areas – including those of other agencies such as the school board and swimming pool district – are frozen. As the rates go up, agencies collect taxes at the frozen rate while the remainder of the taxes goes toward redevelopment.

Kester said the county estimates receiving $25 to $30 million. With the school district collecting 40 percent of the property taxes in those areas, Kester said it will be the most affected agency.

However, the county feels the overall impact of redevelopment will be beneficial.

“In my opinion, the school district should look at the bigger picture,” Dan Holler, county manager, said Thursday. “Yes, it does impact them, but it benefits other agencies besides the school district.”

Improvements such as sewer and water lines are planned for the redevelopment areas, which could bring in new retail development, resulting in more sales tax revenue in the county.

Holler said redevelopment can potentially bring in a significant amount of revenue to Douglas County. He said county staff has looked at a variety of other options for bringing development into the north part of the county. However, it is difficult to find funding for infrastructure when there currently is a small customer base.

Redevelopment also is expected to bring in more housing and commercial development to areas outside the project zone, Holler said, increasing property tax revenue for all taxing agencies, including the school district.

Also, the property tax rate, without redevelopment, will not increase much at all if the project is not implemented, Holler said.

“They can’t lose what they don’t have,” he said. “I think a lot of (development in those areas) won’t happen without redevelopment. If they don’t have the tax revenue, they can’t lose it.”

The $10 to $12 million estimate, Holler said, would only occur if the redevelopment project was widely successful. Without the project, over the same time period the school district would probably see an increase of less than $1 million over the current rate.

However, the school district does not agree.

“There’s the argument that without it there would be no development,” Kester said. “We think that’s a hollow argument. There are other ways to finance it without affecting us as much.”

The county commission formed the redevelopment agency – with the board made up of the commissioners – in September 1997. The Evaluation Area 1 originally encompassed more than 5,000 acres, but after many Jacks Valley and Genoa residents objected to inclusion, the area shrank to about 1,700.

The project still is in preliminary stages, Holler said. Redevelopment is on the agenda for the Douglas County Planning Commission July 14 meeting and the county commission’s July 2 and 16 meetings.

Assuming those meetings go well, Holler said, the first reading to formally adopt the action could be before the county commission at its July 23 meeting.

The Record-Courier E-mail: rc@tahoe.com

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