GRAND FORKS — Members of the Grand Forks School Board have apparently been wary of tax breaks for developers since at least the Clinton administration.
“The Grand Forks School Board has been advised that the City Council is considering tax increment funding for major development projects instead of using the Growth Fund to support these projects,” wrote Rod Mittelsteadt, member of council, to members of the Grand Forks City Council on behalf of the Board of Directors in February 1994. “We respectfully request that you use the Growth Fund as it was intended for this purpose and it has no d long-term negative effect on tax revenue as is the case with tax increment financing.”
Current board member Doug Carpenter, himself a former city council member, brought the letter to Monday’s school board meeting, where he was the only one to vote against a plan to provide tax relief. basically similar to an upscale hotel and event center planned in the Edgewood Downtown Corporate Center. Board members voted 6 to 1 on Feb. 14 to approve a “payment in lieu of taxes” plan for a project that would turn the North Fourth Street and DeMers Avenue building into the Olive Ann boutique hotel. . Absent were board members Shannon Mikula and Jackie Hoffarth.
“I think they need to have a better discussion about what other revenue streams they have that could do some of these transactions,” Carpenter said. “And if that’s a need, well, ask the public for more money if they need it, instead of relying on us to meet their demands when they come.”
The “PILOT” plan, much like the tax increase Mittelsteadt worried about nearly 30 years ago, means that if or when the redevelopment increases the value of the hotel, the owners of the Olive Ann would, for 15 years, only pay a portion of the taxes they would otherwise do on this increased value. After those 15 years are up, they would normally pay property taxes on the full value of the renovated building.
Proponents of the tax relief noted that it could be a token of goodwill for cities and business types as the district assesses future property tax referendums and works to build a career and from a technical academy. Others noted that the hotel could ultimately be a place of work or internship for students in the district, and that it could be a source of foot traffic for sometimes beleaguered downtown businesses.
And Grand Forks Public Schools would be putting nothing at stake, financially, by approving the plan, because the plan lowers taxes on unrealized increases in property value, not current property tax revenue. that the district currently collects. above.
“We’re not investing money in this,” board chairman Eric Lunn said. “If Olive Ann goes bankrupt in 10 years, we won’t lose any money. In fact, we will make money because this building will still be worth something even if it collapses financially.
District officials negotiated with developer Phil Gisi earlier this month, reaching a deal that would make the tax break for the hotel slightly less generous. Gisi said that would mean fewer hotel rooms in the development.
Biermaier is the new director of activities
Also on Monday, council members unanimously named Mike Biermaier the district’s new activities director. Biermaier, who met with some board members during a Monday night visit to Central High School, currently holds that position at Thief River Falls Public Schools in Minnesota.
He was one of six candidates interviewed by a panel of district officials and employees earlier this year.
Biermaier’s job itself is set to be new, but it comes after a reorganization that, in effect, replaces a district-wide athletic director with a district-wide activities director and replaces high school activity directors with high school athletic directors. One of Biermaier’s first tasks will be to help the district hire the two school-level staff members. It won’t officially start until July 1, 2022.
Also interviewed for the position:
- Gabe Dahl, associate principal at Grand Forks Central High School.
- Kevin Forde, a consultant who was, until January, acting director of athletics at Saint Xavier’s University in Chicago, Illinois.
- Tony Bina, associate principal at Red River High School.
- Grand Forks Public Schools athletic director Mark Rerick.
- East Grand Forks Public Schools Operations Manager Scott Koberinski.