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Richmond School Board Seeks To Protect Itself From Costly Economic Development Deals

Richmond School Board member Kenya Gibson, City Councilwomen Kim Gray and Kristen Larson
Richmond School Board member Kenya Gibson (right) standing beside City Councilwomen Kim Gray (center) and Kristen Larson (left) at a recent press conference on school construction cost overruns. (Roberto Roldan/VPM)

The Richmond School Board wants to protect school funding from the effects of large economic development projects.

At its meeting Monday, the board approved a resolution asking the city to make sure it doesn’t lose funding as a result of tax increment financing, also called TIF. The special taxing zone is a part of the proposed redevelopment plans for the Richmond Coliseum. Mayor Levar Stoney wants to pledge new revenues from an 80-block district of downtown to repay the construction bond.

School Board member Kenya Gibson, who introduced the resolution, said she’s tax increment financing could make the city look wealthier on paper, even if new tax revenue is going to pay the debt on a new arena. That could mean less state dollars for schools.

“There have been, across the country, many examples of TIFs that have caused harm to the funding levels that schools have. I think it’s important for schools to have the ability to opt out,” Gibson said.

Gibson pointed to Baltimore, where the use of this type of development financing was projected to drain more than $10 million per year in state education funding. The resolution was approved by the school board on a 7-2 vote.

The move comes after VPM News spoke with experts earlier this year that voiced similar concerns about the effects of TIF on state education dollars.

Stoney and the developers, NH District Corp., say the Coliseum redevelopment and associated private development have the potential to general around $1 billion in excess tax revenue. They argue that is more than enough to cover any potential losses in state education funding.

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