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Gainesville school board votes to support downtown TAD
3-1 vote comes in special-called meeting
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The Gainesville Board of Education agreed Monday to re-enter into an agreement to support a tax allocation district in Gainesville.

In a special-called meeting, the board voted 3-1 to enter into a revised agreement to forgo revenues from increasing property values in the city’s Midtown tax allocation district to support redevelopment.

Board Chairman David Syfan opposed and board member Sammy Smith was absent from the meeting.

The revised agreement gives the school board more representation on the TAD’s nine-member advisory committee, which advises the Gainesville City Council if and how much funding it should give to developers in the district. The agreement also limits the amount of residential development allowed in the district to 800 units over the life of the district and the development’s impact on schools.

Two weeks ago, Syfan said the revisions made him more comfortable with the TAD, but Monday, Syfan sought further negotiations between the school board and Gainesville.

Specifically, Syfan wanted clearer language in the agreement that guaranteed that the city would not seek tax revenues from the school board for the district prior to the 2010 tax year. The school board’s attorney Phil Hartley, however, said the agreement addressed that issue.

The remaining school board members voted to approve the agreement with the caveat that the school board and the city exchange letters underlining the fact that the school board would not begin contributing to the district until 2010.

The future of the tax allocation district, or TAD, has been in limbo since the school board backed out of an agreement to fund redevelopment projects in it four months ago.

The TAD, a 270-acre area comprising Gainesville’s downtown and Midtown, is an area city officials have targeted for redevelopment.

To attract developers, city, county and city school officials agreed in 2006 to use a public funding tool called tax increment financing.

The financing tool requires the local governments to forgo increases in property tax revenues in the district, and then use that money, the tax increment, to repay bonds they will issue to developers for improvements in the area.

At least two developers already have shown interest in pursuing TAD funding for Midtown projects, but haven’t yet applied. However, Gainesville City Manager Kip Padgett said that now that the school board has re-entered the agreement, he expects an application to be filed in the next few weeks. The Gainesville City Council will have to ratify the agreement; Padgett expected the council to sign off on it at the council’s meeting Tuesday.

“We’re very glad it passed,” Padgett said. “There was a lot of things we had to work out, but in the end, I think we came up with a great solution that will benefit everybody — the city and the school board, most importantly our citizens.”

In March, school board members, dealing with a deficit and cuts in state funding, were hesitant to forgo the tax revenue. As a result, they voted to back out of the original agreement they signed with the city in 2006. The decision resulted in a loss of nearly 65 percent of the potential funding for projects in the district, but left open the possibility of the school board’s future participation in the TAD.

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