The Aiken County Board of Education will hold a public hearing at the district office on Tuesday at 7 p.m. – specifically on the City of North Augusta's proposal that School Board members agree to a crucial role in the City's plans for major investments.
The hearing will be at 1000 Brookhaven Drive in Aiken and will welcome proponents and opponents of the City's efforts to get the School Board and Aiken County Council to participate in a Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) mechanism. “Project Jackson” would include the construction of a minor-league baseball stadium, a conference center, a parking garage and other additions from private investment.
Todd Glover, North Augusta's city administrator, brought a revamped proposal to the School Board at a meeting last week. At least two School Board members – Levi Green and Tad Barber – believe City officials made some important changes. They would consider voting to support Project Jackson, although according to state law, the School Board still would have about six weeks to come to a decision.
The hearing is expected to include people from the North Augusta area who believe the project has many flaws and shouldn't be approved by the School Board. Board members and district administrators are expected to stress that speakers should focus only on the School Board's possible participation in Project Jackson – not the City's long-term development plans.
Glover cited two key changes. The School District's participation in the Tax Incremental Financing would be reduced from 30 years to 15 – the length of time for deferring tax revenue to the City. School Board members also had expressed concern about its tax revenue being used to build a baseball stadium, but now those funds won't be needed for that purpose, Glover said.
The City is asking the School Board and Aiken County Council to defer tax revenue within a 24-acre area that the City wants to expand. County Council already rejected Project Jackson, but North Augusta officials anticipate another visit to discuss the changes.
“I would not have supported the TIF with the stadium in there,” Levi Green said. “They've eliminated that and also reduced the number of years (to 15). We just need to make sure what we're working out for an agreement. I could vote for it, but will have to wait and see how it goes.”
North Augusta officials did appear to listen to the School Board's early concerns, Barber said.
“I'd like to see the deferral reduced a little more,” he said, “but cutting it in half was pretty significant. Barring anything from the public comment (Tuesday), I think this is probably moving in the right direction … This time they're not really clogged up with the development aspect. From an economic development standpoint, this is a good thing for North Augusta and probably the entire county.”
• In other business at the School Board meeting, the Board members will go into closed session at 6 p.m. to hear student disciplinary appeals. At about 8 p.m. the Board will discuss the 2013-14 operating budget.
This will be the first time the Board members have formally considered priorities for the new term. However, several had noted that anticipated and available revenue is tight and will provide only limited opportunities to provide additional needs for the district.