A public hearing on two proposed Downtown Redevelopment Districts in Hillsboro and a special session of city council to discuss whether the city will join the Paint Creek fire and EMS district as a member are both scheduled for Friday, Oct. 20, the city announced Thursday.
The public hearing on the DRD will be at 5:30 p.m., with the Paint Creek meeting at 6:30 p.m. Both meetings will be held at the Hillsboro Municipal Courtroom at the Highland County Justice Center, where council regularly meets.
A second meeting on the Paint Creek issue will be held 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 6, at the same location.
The meetings on Paint Creek “are open to the public but only the stated agenda item will be open for discussion,” according to a notice from Lee Koogler, council president, who added, “No other business will be conducted.”
After several months of research and meetings with various officials, Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings presented the Downtown Redevelopment District plan to council this week. Council heard the first of three readings of an ordinance that would create two such districts in Hillsboro. DRDs are a new economic development tool for municipalities approved last year by the state legislature.
Hastings told council that the two redevelopment districts — one set for the uptown area and the other for the former stockyards/lumberyard property, the Gross Feibel property and other nearby properties — will generate revenue for the city while promoting economic development in the area.
The goal of a DRD is to preserve and revitalize historic areas and promote economic development by redirecting a portion of property tax revenue back into the district for further development.
In what amounts to tax increment financing (TIF), if properties in redevelopment districts are improved and gain a higher property tax value, a portion of the revenue from the increased property taxes is directed back into the district’s coffers. In turn, the district’s operating committee — guided by an accompanying economic development plan — is able to offer grants or loans for renovations and more improvement projects.
During this week’s council meeting, Hastings described the ordinance as “one of the most important legislations this council has had before them and the easiest to consider.”
The Paint Creek issue must be decided before the end of the year because the city’s current contract for fire and EMS coverage expires then. Since January 2014, the city has had a contractual relationship with Paint Creek for coverage of Hillsboro for about $570,000 a year, paid from the city’s General Fund.
By contrast, townships that are covered by the fire district are voting members under a plan that covers the cost of coverage through a 5.5 mill property tax. Until recently, the law allowed only nine voting members on a fire district board – which Paint Creek had already reached – so the city was unable to join. But that provision no longer exists, clearing the way for Hillsboro to join like the townships.
A vote by council to join the district would give the city an official voice and vote in district decisions, but also bring with it the increase in property taxes just as the townships pay. County auditor Bill Fawley said previously that for property owners in the city, the increase would amount to about $173 a year for every $100,000 of valuation.
Hastings has said that the $570,000 a year in its General Fund savings could be used for more improvements in the city.
Earlier this year, Paint Creek moved into the newer Hillsboro fire station on North East Street under a short-term lease agreement. A longer lease or purchase agreement is being negotiated.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.