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Master developer and Joplin Schools meet to discuss financial concerns

Updated November 28, 2012 by Jordan Aubey:  Joplin School District officials meet with the city's redeveloper to iron out some financial concerns.

The discussion took place during today's Joplin TIF Board meeting.

A recent TIF proposal would reroute property tax revenue away from some public institution, and instead towards paying for redevelopment projects because of last year's tornado.

Besides diverting money away from the Joplin School District, the proposed TIF would also freeze assessed valuations of nearby properties for 23 years.

One of the concerns the school district has is how to pay for the financial burden of more students in the years to come.

During today's meeting, Wallace Bajjali, the city's developer, proposed setting a student base line.

For every new student above that baseline, the school district would receive $2,500 from the city's TIF fund.

"We don't need that much money upfront to support that particular child," says Joplin Schools Superintendent CJ Huff, PhD.  "We just need the operating cost associated with educating that child, which is much less than $2,500.  So we're looking at ways we can certainly support the redevelopment effort.  We don't want or need any more funds than necessary to educate each individual child as they come in out of this TIF area."

Superintendent Huff proposes saving the remainder of that money to build a new school that may be needed in the future from the additional students living in the TIF area.

The TIF board will hear more input and hear comments from residents at a meeting on Friday.

Reported November 27, 2012 by Jordan Aubey:  Joplin school board members will meet tonight to discuss concerns over the city's proposal to fund redevelopment projects.  It involves a TIF and rerouting tax revenue.

"What we're speaking of, on these challenges, is maintaining our existing budget," says Paul Barr, the Chief Financial Officer for the Joplin School District.

The city's master developer, Wallace Bajjali, wants to reroute property tax revenue.  Instead of revenue going to Joplin Schools and other public institutions, it would pay for redevelopment projects throughout the city that were affected by last year's tornado.

However, the school district says it was left out of the plan, writing in a letter to TIF commissioners:  "Was there a reason that the economic impact on the school district was not a part of the TIF plan cost/benefit analysis?"

The school district says its assessed valuation has dropped about $34 million since the tornado.

"That's based on all the homeowners that lost houses - they all pay taxes - the businesses in that tornado zone pay taxes on their real estate," says Barr.

The TIF plan calls for freezing that post-tornado assessment for 23 years.

According to the school district, during that 23 year period, the district would lose more than $21 million.

There's also concern over ongoing financial support for the school district.

The district says it used the number of residential units proposed in the TIF plan to estimate an additional 2,600 K-12 students in the future, meaning they will need more classrooms if not more schools.

"But there are costs associated with their education that we won't be receiving during that TIF period because the revenues won't come to us," says Barr.

School district officials say they've heard a few possible solutions from Wallace Bajjali.  Among them, second-hand use of TIF money.

"It would go toward paying down debt first, and then redistribute back out to the county, special roads," says Barr.

The school district says none of their concerns have been resolved.

But Joplin's TIF commission may vote on Friday to recommend Joplin's city council approve the TIF.

The school board's meeting is tonight at 7 p.m. at the school district's administration building.

Joplin's city manager was unavailable for comment.

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