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Gainesville schools opt out of TAD deal with city

School chief says budget concerns leave no surpluses

POSTED: March 28, 2009 12:06 a.m.

Despite Gainesville officials’ prodding, the city school board signed a resolution Friday stating it will not be able to contribute taxpayer funds to a proposed tax allocation district due to the economic recession and dwindling state education funds.

The board’s attorney said the resolution also voids the school system’s tax allocation district agreement with the city.

City officials, on the other hand, say they will review their contract with the school system in the coming days to determine if the school system is bound by the previous agreement.

“The resolution is there to state we are not interested in participating in a TAD in the near future ... just because the scarcity of resources and tax collection rates are lower than expected,” Gainesville school Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said. “We need every dime we can get.”

More than 60 percent of Gainesville voters voted in November against an amendment to the state constitution allowing school taxes to be used for redevelopment. But their vote was trumped by a majority of voters statewide who passed the amendment.

The amendment overwhelmingly passed in the state House earlier this month.

If the full legislature passes the amendment, Gainesville officials, who signed agreement with the school system, could receive the go-ahead to collect school tax money in 2009 to fund redevelopment in its 270-acre tax allocation district.

City officials were under the impression that the previous agreement would be “grandfathered in” once the amendment passed, and that no new agreement with the school board would be necessary.

Gainesville Planning Director Rusty Ligon said city officials have had no discussions with the school board about the agreement since they signed an intergovernmental deal to forgo tax money for redevelopment on Dec. 19, 2006.

But the school board said that since it signed the original TAD agreement with the city in December 2006, the state has “drastically” reduced funds for education, which “severely” impacts the budget for the school system. Further, the board’s resolution states its original tax allocation agreement with the city is void because it was based upon unconstitutional statutory authority.

The resolution approved Friday informs the city that due to the economic recession and the school system’s estimated $5.8 million budget deficit, tax revenue benefitting Gainesville schools may not be used to repay bonds for tax allocation district projects. The document states the system must “maximize every revenue dollar in order to try to prevent the layoff of staff and the elimination of education programs.”

The Gainesville system has not yet given any money to fund redevelopment, Dyer said.

The board also declared in the resolution that it would give “careful consideration” before entering into a new tax allocation district agreement with the city.

Dyer said the school system has a meeting Monday with the city’s tax allocation district advisory committee to review the status of Gainesville tax districts.

Staff writer Ashley Fielding contributed to this story.



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