As Rock Hill moves ahead with plans to revitalize downtown, city officials want the school district to continue letting tax dollars be redirected to construction projects intended to spur growth.
In exchange, the city would pay to post police officers at several schools and cap the amount of money the school system would forgo.
The proposal is part of Rock Hill's "Downtown Redevelopment Plan," an evolving blueprint for future renewal projects.
"We're making public improvements that benefit everybody ... and creating an atmosphere for private investment," Mayor Doug Echols said.
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City leaders want to pay for projects using tax increment financing.
The method allows the city to borrow money based on the projected future value of property in a tax increment financing district and spend the funds on projects intended to attract development. The loan is repaid from increased tax dollars generated in the TIF district.
Rock Hill has three TIF districts including the Manchester Village and Galleria areas.
The downtown TIF district is set to expire in 2014. City leaders want to extend it through 2039 and add 10 acres.
The school system already gives up about $230,000 annually to the downtown development area under a previous agreement. City leaders want to extend the agreement for another 25 years.
The money would go toward the Downtown East development, a partnership between the city of Rock Hill and Comporium Communications to build office and retail spaces and a 1.6-acre park with a fountain.
The city would borrow several million dollars to pay for public improvements such as sidewalks and extending water and electrical service, finance director Anne Poag said.
Comporium would pay for most of the work.
City council won't vote on the plan for months, but officials want the school board's blessing before moving forward.
Without it, the city would have to go ahead more slowly and with less money, Poag said.
The school board has been discussing the agreement behind closed doors for months, school board member Ginny Moe said. The school system hired an economist to review the proposal.
"We were worried about the long-term commitment," Moe said.
The city agreed to all of the school system's requests before announcing the proposed bargain. If the school board agrees, here's what would happen:
The school system would continue forgoing about $230,000 a year in tax revenue, plus any future increase through 2039 up to $11.5 million total.
The city would pay for school resources officers at Northwestern and South Pointe High schools, four middle schools and the Flexible Learning Center plus any new campuses in the city, saving the school system at least $364,000 a year. (Some officers come from the York County Sheriff's Department.)
The city would hold the school system harmless from payments for any new owner-occupied homes within the expanded downtown TIF area.
Superintendent Lynn Moody has endorsed the proposal and recommends the board approve it.
"The school district would not be losing overall," Associate Superintendent Anthony Cox said.
The school board is expected to vote on the agreement at a Jan. 23 public meeting.
At least one board member plans to vote against it.
"I can not see tying the hands of school boards in the future" by agreeing to a 25-year extension, school board member Walter Brown said.
There's also potentially more money for the school system to gain by letting the current TIF expire, Brown said.
"There's very little risk," school board member Jim Vining said. "We're getting money up front on this deal. If (the downtown area) does well, it will eventually help us."
"We're not going to be able to predict what happens," Moe said. "Everything is a risk. But we've insulated ourselves."
School board Chairman Bob Norwood said he's leery of TIF programs but comfortable with the city's offer.
It guarantees no cuts to school resources officers and brings money in "at a time when our budget could use a shot in the arm," he said.
"We're not going to lose."