Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Bellevue looks to schools for help

Councilwoman requests the district forgo funding

Express Staff Writer

The Blaine County School District may help the city of Bellevue address its financial woes.

"We can only do so much, and we need help," Bellevue City Councilwoman Tammy Eaton said.

Eaton approached the Blaine County School Board of Trustees Tuesday, Aug. 9, with a request for the school district to forgo future tax revenue generated on a proposed urban renewal district in Bellevue. The city is exploring a new avenue to revitalize the town by way of a yet-to-be-determined urban renewal district.

In light of strained finances, the city is looking at creative ways to pay for needed improvements to streets, utilities, parks, playgrounds and public facilities. The council is considering designating a district under Idaho's Urban Renewal and Local Economic Development statutes as a way to direct money to needed projects.

Under the proposal, projects are financed through increases in property tax values. At the formation of the district, the Blaine County assessor determines property values for the district. The initial property valuation becomes the baseline value. If property tax revenue increases above the baseline value within the district, the tax revenue generated is shared between the urban renewal district and the school district.

At last week's meeting, Eaton requested that the school district forgo the tax revenue generated above the baseline value on Bellevue's proposed urban renewal district.

Eaton estimates a $34 million base value for Bellevue's urban renewal district. According to 2004 assessed values and levy rate, Eaton said the total taxes in the urban renewal district amount to $197,281. After subtracting the school district's entitlement, the city is left with $69,052.

If the school district forgoes the incremental tax earnings, the revenue generated above the baseline value would be directed to Bellevue projects.

Eaton said the request would stand for a minimum of five years. A designated urban renewal district is deemed appropriate for redevelopment projects for up to 24 years.

"We all appreciate the challenges you face in Bellevue," school board Chairwoman Alex Sundali said.

Sundali suggested the school board arrange a work session to discuss the matter and take action on the request at a future meeting.

The city further discussed the possibility of establishing a district under Idaho's Urban Renewal and Local Economic Development statutes at the Thursday, Aug. 11, council meeting. In an informal show of hands, all council members in attendance supported moving ahead with the initiative.

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