The Aiken County School District's financial advisers and bond attorneys are looking at the City of North Augusta's information related to the Tax Incremental Financial mechanism the City is seeking for economic development, said School Board attorney Bill Burkhalter.
City officials are asking that the Board of Education approve “Project Jackson” and its TIF for a small portion of a 457-acre site the City wants to develop through a public/private partnership. The School Board would agree to defer tax revenues for 15 years, although the City has promised much higher payments to the District over the duration of the TIF.
The District's financial advisers are looking at the figures provided by the City, while the bond attorneys are examining an intergovernmental agreement draft between the City and the District. The financial advisers also have asked to review the draft, as well.
“We've got several of our normal advisers and consultants looking at these things to say 'Yes, this looks accurate,' or 'No, it doesn't,'” Burkhalter said.
At a Board meeting Tuesday, several trustees had questions about the TIF and asked Burkhalter to pursue them.
“We realize where we are as a Board, that we each have different informational needs,” said Vice Chairman Ray Fleming. “The important thing is to keep identifying those needs and get them satisfied so we can move forward with a decision one way or another.”
There is no formal time frame for the School Board to approve or reject its participation. City officials have said they need the approval of the School Board and the Aiken County Council to make the project work. County Council members voted down the City's original proposal in March. Since then, North Augusta's plan with the School Board has changed dramatically and that likely will occur again as well when City officials meet with the County Council.
If the School Board agrees to its participation, but the TIF never happens, Burkhalter said, the district would receive $32,000 annually over the 15-year TIF. If the City's projections and assumptions do follow through, the attorney said, the district would receive $232,000 for the 15-year period, beginning in two years.
“Once the TIF rolls off, the district could pick up $1.1 million annually,” Burkhalter said. “Right now we're trying to validate those projects and those numbers.”
Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard's education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.