August 26, 2014

Rock Hill school board objects to extension of special tax district

The Rock Hill school board has formally objected to the extension of a special tax district in Rock Hill’s 'Textile Corridor.'

The Rock Hill school board on Monday rejected a request to extend a special downtown tax district that’s a key part of the city’s Knowledge Park project.

City officials are looking to extend the tax district for 10 years after it expires in 2029. A public hearing is scheduled at the Sept. 8 Rock Hill City Council meeting, and the city needed an official response from the school district before then, said Stephen Turner, the city’s director of economic development. The special tax district is intended to fund improvements in the Knowledge Park area, which extends from downtown Rock Hill to Winthrop University.

City and school officials say they continue to discuss a possible extension.

While the city and the school district negotiated over the summer about the extension, school board chairman Jim Vining said the board doesn’t have enough information yet to back the extension or come to a final agreement.

“Basically, we think that the city has agreed to most of the things we’ve talked about, we just haven’t gotten it in writing,” Vining said.

He also said board members were waiting on additional information from the city. The board will take up the matter at a September work session and take another vote in September, if board members feel prepared to do so, Vining said.

Special tax districts like the one downtown are often used in developing areas. While tax rates aren’t raised in the district, any increase in property tax revenue caused by growth is dedicated to public improvements. To extend the tax district, the Rock Hill school board, York County Council and Rock Hill City Council must agree to give up the additional revenue.

In 2004, the school district backed the tax district, Vining said. Since then, the “best practices” recommended to school boards have been altered because of changes in the way schools are funded.

“This makes negotiations different than in 2004,” he said.

This year’s budget also will factor into the board’s decision, Vining said. The Rock Hill school district is anticipating a $1.4 million shortfall in its current operating budget.

The “objection” the board voted for on Monday is a formality for now so the dialogue and discussion can move forward, Turner said. He noted that conversations between the board and city have been “positive and productive.”

“I fully expect we will reach an agreement between the city and the school district,” he said.

Vining said the school board had a willingness to seek a solution.

“I don’t know that we’ll get there, but we’re trying really hard,” Vining said.

Under the Knowledge Park plan calls for recruiting high tech businesses to the corridor between downtown and Winthrop. The area also would have residential and retail uses.

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