The School District of Pickens County's Board of Trustees voted 5-1 Monday to join Pickens County in a lawsuit to be filed against the City of Clemson to recover monies that have exceeded the limits of Tax Increment Financing statute that was adopted in 1998.
In 1998, the district and Pickens County worked with the City of Clemson to adopt a plan that would focus on 17 specific redevelopment projects with an estimated cost of $9.4 million.
As part of the agreement, the county and the school district agreed that any county and school district tax revenue generated from the appreciation of property in that area would be reinvested back into the TIF area by the city. With the growth of Clemson University, the appreciation of the property has grown, creating a surplus.
"Our case has primarily two complaints," said Alex Saitta, chair of the board. "Let me explain the first one. Under the law, the city has to limit the size and scope in the redevelopment projects in the TIF area and put a cost estimate on the projects. The cost estimates of the projects was $9.4 million. The interest cost on the bonds issued was $2 million. When a judge looks at the agreement, we believe he’ll see the pledge of county and school district revenue limited at $11.4 million."
At this time, the district believes that the surplus is at least $8.6 million and may exceed $10 million over the life of the TIF, half of which is owed to the district.
"Representatives from the county and school district met with Clemson twice to try and settle this out of court," Saitta said. "We offered splitting the difference of $10 million and settling for $5 million. They rejected it."
Saitta said the district could use the $5 million to double the amount of spending for classroom supplies over the next seven years or could be used to add 100 teaching positions.
"The question the county taxpayer needs to ask is, how does he want his education tax dollars spent?" Saitta said. "On more bike paths in Clemson and sidewalks to no where, or does he want it spent on hiring teachers or paying for classroom supplies?"
The first reading of the passed with a 3-2-1 vote. Saitta casted the only dissenting vote, while board members Ben Trotter and Jim Shelton elected not to vote on the first reading.
"I know there is not a lot of new revenue, and most is being spent on required pay raises, and rising medical and retirements costs," Saitta said. "If there is any extra money, it needs to go to the classroom – more 4k classes, adding a K-12 program for students reading below grade level and more classroom teachers."
The second reading of the budget will be held May 29.
TAP — Master Teachers
At the beginning of the board meeting, Saitta announced that the 13.5 master teachers, who had been part of the , have found jobs teaching within the district as a results of retirement notices and attrition.
The board voted to purchase two additional activity buses for the district. The buses will be purchased with additional money the district received as an Education Foundation Supplement. The measure passed 5-1.
In other district news:
• Again, parents and community members spoke out during the public comment portion of the meeting about the alleged insensitive comments made by board member Ben Trotter while attending a meeting in Liberty regarding special needs children. Trotter, who has denied making the statements, apologized to the board and to the audience for his use of inappropriate language during last month's board meeting. He did not apologize for his alleged remarks.
• A parent whose child attends spoke up for the students in the band. A former band director, who also serves in the military, is expected to take the program over. The parent said she wants the to ensure "these kids get what they deserve in a band director."
• The district recognized the schools that had been named
• The district announced that AT&T had completed the tie-in work so that road construction and resurfacing can continue around Pickens High School.
• The district said the both AT&T and Charter have to complete work near the new Easley High School so that road work may also begin. The work is expected to be completed by the first of next week.
• The board approved a list of items from Easley High School that would be sold as part of a surplus auction.