A request by Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings for the Hillsboro City Schools to give its okay to a proposed Downtown Redevelopment District (DRD) was tabled Wednesday night by the board of education while board members gather more information.
School board president Bill Myers said that since the board was seeing the proposal for the first time, it would like more time to review it. The board tabled the matter until its next meeting on Nov. 15, and Hastings said he would bring a DRD expert to that meeting.
The DRD involves tax increment financing. In essence, if the board agreed to the plan, the school district would continue to receive the current property tax income it receives from the properties in question within the two districts designated as part of the DRDs, but would only receive 30 percent on any property tax increases from those properties if their value increases. The DRD would get the other 70 percent.
Hastings said that most other cities that have approved a DRD have done so on a 10-year plan, which does not required local school district approval, but he would like to see a longer agreement in Hillsboro.
Earlier this month, Hillsboro City Council heard the first reading on an ordinance creating two DRDs within the city. Hastings said the two redevelopment districts, one set for the uptown area and the other for the former stockyards/lumberyard property and surrounding areas, would generate revenue for the city while promoting economic development in the area. The ability for municipalities to create DRDs was done by state legislative action last year.
Hastings said the uptown district would include Bell’s Opera House, and said he had discussed possible conflicts of interest with Hillsboro Law Director Fred Beery, since Hastings owns the opera house. Hastings said Beery is “confident that it can become a community asset that is free of any conflict.”
The other DRD would include the old stockyards area adjacent to the former school location, the Gross Feibel property, and a historic building at 158 and 160 W. Main St., where Habitat for Humanity is operating a store, and could be a location for a hotel and sports complex, which would generate significant revenue for the DRD.
Hastings told the school board that the sports complex, which would tentatively be operated by Hillsboro High School graduate Tirrell Cumberland, could be placed on the former tennis courts location at the city park, while the basketball courts could be left in place for community use.
As reported by The Times-Gazette earlier, the overall 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.
Essentially, the mayor said, if properties in redevelopment districts are improved and gain a higher property tax value, revenue from increased property taxes — the portion that represents the difference based on the higher values — is directed back into the DRDs’ coffers. In turn, the funds can be used for infrastructure improvements, or the district’s operating committee is able to offer grants or loans for renovations and more improvement projects.
Board member Larry Lyons asked Hastings about the makeup of the DRD board. Hastings said he’d like a school board member to be on it.
“My standpoint,” Myers said, “is that our first duty is to make use of the funds we have for our students and staff. Twenty years from now, what’s the dollar impact that has on our district? Have you looked into what you’re asking us to give up?”
Hastings said he had not, “but if there are no changes, everything stays the same, and nobody wins. If you do this, you could view it as the board getting 30 percent of money that never existed before. But for that to happen a lot has to be done and property tax value has to improve. … I guess I just don’t see a downside.”
In another matter earlier in the meeting, local resident Sherry Young asked, with Black History Month coming up in February, if something could be done to honor the “Marching Mothers of Hillsboro” and others who spent two years peacefully walking with them from 1954-56 in an effort to desegregate the Hillsboro schools.
“It’s an important part of history … that we should embrace,” Young said.
The Marching Mothers eventually won their case and earlier this month 55 people involved in the peaceful protests — both mothers and students — were inducted into the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame in Columbus.
Hillsboro Superintendent Tim Davis said he thought Young’s request was “a great idea” and school members voiced their agreement.
The Highland County Historical Society has a 17-minute film on the historic event available for the public to view. Davis said the film has been shown to some Hillsboro students, but not all.
Young said some of those involved with the march would be willing to visit the school to talk with students.
In his report to the board, Davis noted that Oct. 16-20 is National School Bus Safety Week.
Davis said that according to transportation supervisor Ron Ward, Hillsboro has 23 regular bus routes and three special education transportation routes each morning and afternoon. He said the school transports approximately 1,400 students on morning routes and approximately 1,550 students on afternoon routes.
Hillsboro buses travel about 2,226 miles each day, or 396,228 miles a year. Plus, the school travels another 80,000 miles each year on student field and athletic trips, Davis said.
Primary school principal Jacob Zink honored two of his teachers at the meeting. He said Brittany Oxley, a third grade teacher, was the Ohio Council Teachers of Math regional award winner, and that Fawn Girard, a primary school intervention specialist, recently placed 13th in the World 3D Archery Championship as a member of the USA team.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or firstname.lastname@example.org.