Project Jackson, Tax Increment Financing, TIF Districts: Those buzz words have been buzzing around the CSRA for months, so here's the loaded question that affects you right now:
“The school board's heard this before, so when you sit down tonight, what's new, what's different,” we asked.
“We've heard you,” Mayor Lark Jones says of the Aiken County School Board. “These are the things you objected to and you said concerned you, and we've eliminated those things.”
If the school board accepts the TIF plan, they would forfeit part of the tax revenue brought into the TIF district by hotels, restaurants, and even the ballpark itself. That money would go to paying off the public tab created by Project Jackson, instead of going into Aiken County Schools. That means this is a big decision for school leaders.
“What new and meaningful changes do you need to see to be sure that North Augusta is being accountable to the students of Aiken County,” we asked.
“To be meaningful to me, they're going to have to reduce it from a time standpoint,” Aiken County School Board member Tad Barber says.
And the Mayor says, they will cut back on time and money.
“If you want to buy something and you don't have enough money, you either have to get a little less of a product or save your money or work harder,” Jones says.
Jones says they are now able to cut the budget by as much as 10 percent, and to cut the school board's term by half to 15 years. School board members say that makes them a lot more willing to play ball.
North Augusta will also reduce their funding request to the schools by as much as 40 percent.
“I can see 15 years out, 30 year from now, again a lot can change,” Barber says.
Jones says he believes the long-term investment will actually create more money for schools. But if you don't have kids in Aiken County schools, why should you want Project Jackson?
“I keep telling people, we want more restaurants in North Augusta that don't have trays,” Jones laughs. “North Augusta is ready for these things and this brings it to the table.”
Jones believes this would be a game changer for the entire CSRA.