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A Message from the Big Walnut Board of Education Regarding Residential Development

A Message from the Big Walnut Board of Education Regarding Residential Development


At the October 10 meeting, our Board discussed the Galena/Blackhawk proposed development and its potential impacts to our District. We felt it was a good use of this space to discuss the role of school boards in the development that occurs in our community, as well as our current understanding of the potential impacts of the Blackhawk project. 


To be direct: this Board is willing to support reasonable economic incentives that help diversify the tax base with commercial and industrial projects in the District so that the burden of funding our schools falls less on our residents. We are not interested in supporting any economic incentives that continue to push the local burden of funding schools solely onto our residents.


School districts do not court developers or seek residential, commercial, or industrial development projects. 


Many types of developers seek local governments and their zoning boards and encourage them to approve the developers’ projects. 


Developers often seek financial support from local governments to “incentivize” their development. The current trend is attracting projects that add more residents without increasing the percentage of commercial or industrial tax base.


Zoning boards have a series of laws that are designed to shape the type of development that is built in a particular part of your village or township. Most of these laws limit what developers can do. Developers pay for many impact studies like environmental, trees, water, sewer, traffic, and police/fire. They have to prove that their proposed project fits the zoning standards in these key areas.


A “School Impact Study” is a unicorn. You will never find in a list of zoning requirements for a developer to design their project to minimize impact on a school district. There is no legal requirement for your village or township to make a decision that accounts for the impact of a project onto the school system. 


This is particularly problematic for the District when a village or township considers property-tax based financing mechanisms to help fund development projects.


School districts cannot create tools like a Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), a New Community Authority (NCA), or Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to deal with the impact of development. 


Local government village and township leaders are asked by developers to use these tools to divert tax funds from other resources like schools, the library, the county board of developmental disabilities, and the fire department. In most cases, these additional fees and diverted tax dollars serve as reimbursements to private developers who build infrastructure and products. 


As of this writing, Champion has provided a proposal asking Galena to implement a CRA and a TIF, and give Galena’s share of the NCA millage to Champion instead.


As a Board, we are left to do what we are doing right now with the Blackhawk development. We scratch and claw to obtain information. We receive some data from Galena. We hear some information from the developer. We use other public records and our own resources to try to guess the impact of the development based on the data available to us.


Based on the data available as of October 10, and after one 45-minute meeting with a legal representative of Champion on October 4, we believe the Blackhawk development could place an operational burden on the District at the equivalent of 2-3 mills of tax dollars upon full build-out. Those estimates come with a host of assumptions and use of trend data to best estimate how a proposed project impacts the District. But it is the best data we have. There are no unicorns.


If the proposed Blackhawk development comes to fruition, the District will have to decide how it can absorb the cost of this development, or ask all of the residents of the District to provide more revenue to cover the costs of this development. This dynamic is not unique to the Blackhawk project.