Baldwin school board reluctantly joins tax rebate program

? Despite the expressed misgivings of several members, the Baldwin City school board agreed Monday to join with the city in a property tax rebate program meant to stimulate new construction.

The neighborhood revitalization plan, which the Baldwin City Council passed in March, would rebate 100 percent of the property tax value of new residential, industrial and commercial construction for five years. It would give the same five-year, 100 percent rebate on improvements that increase an existing business or home’s property value by more than 10 percent.

The program would also provide a 10-year, 95 percent rebate for projects with an affordable housing or historic preservation designation.

Board members Sandy Chapman, Ivan Huntoon and Greg Kruger said the five-year, 100 percent rebate created too big a gamble that new construction would pay off for the district. What saved the plan from defeat Monday was the inclusion of the 95 percent, 10-year rebate on affordable housing or historic preservation projects.

That was part of the neighborhood revitalization plan because of the City Council’s previous commitment to support Flint Hills Holdings LLC’s conversion of the old middle school in the 700 block of Chapel Street to a 30-unit apartment complex with 22 affordable housing units.

Tony Krsnich, Flint Hills CEO, told the board Monday that because of the developer’s commitment to provide reduced rents on the 22 affordable housing units, the rebate was needed to meet mortgage obligations.

With Krsnich’s testimony, board members overcame objections and voted 5-1 to approve participation in the rebate program, with board member Greg Kruger voting no. Board members said they had supported the apartment complex in the past, starting with their agreement in 2014 to sell the old middle school to Krsnich for $90,000.

“I could come to some peace with it because I want Tony’s project to succeed,” Chapman said.

In other business, the board approved the district’s 2017-2018 budget. The budget, the first under the state’s new school funding formula, increases district classroom spending by about $586,000 while holding the mill levy at the district’s 2016-2017 rate of 63.669 mills. At that mill rate, the district’s share of taxes on a $175,000 single-family home would be about $1,235.