Denton school board to hear update

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City to ask district to help fund convention center portion of project

City officials plan to present an update on a proposed hotel and convention center to the Denton school board tonight and ask that the district help fund the convention center portion of the project.

The school board also is expected to consider the adoption of the 2014-15 fiscal budget, an increase in meal prices at elementary and secondary schools, and Superintendent Jamie Wilson’s contract. One year remains on Wilson’s current contract.

On June 17 the Denton City Council unanimously voted to create a tax-increment reinvestment zone that would support repayment of bonds for a proposed $25 million city-owned convention center.

The tax-increment reinvestment zone district is 13 acres of vacant and undeveloped land on University of North Texas property near Apogee Stadium at Interstate 35E and North Texas Boulevard.

Under the proposal, a full-service hotel, restaurant and 100,000-square-foot convention center would be built on the property, which is currently tax-exempt.

According to Denton school board meeting documents, the city is asking that the school district contribute 75 percent of the debt service tax revenue it would generate from the proposed hotel and restaurant property taxes to fund the convention center over a 30-year period, estimated to equate to nearly $4 million. The city is looking to contribute 100 percent of its real property increment and anticipating that Denton County would participate and contribute 75 percent of its real property increment to the project.

Board President Glenna Harris said the school board will investigate its options and listen to “all parties and all sides” tonight. She likened it to test-driving a new car, checking out the tires but not necessarily implying a purchase will be made.

“We’re going to listen, and at some time in the future, whenever we’re ready to, the board will consider whether to vote it up or down,” Harris said. “This is just to look at what they’ve got to say.

“It’s just a look and listen from our standpoint.”

Harris said that while she sees the benefit the project offers in generating additional revenue from a property that’s currently not taxable and in creating an additional meeting space for the community and school events like graduation and the district’s annual technology conference, trustees must consider district responsibilities and obligations not only to students but to taxpayers.

District documents for tonight’s meeting indicate that “without implementation of the TIRZ [tax-increment reinvestment zone] the potential development outlined ... would not occur and the land would continue to remain tax exempt.”

Other options for the school district to consider would be participating “at varying rates or duration,” according to the documents.

Assistant City Manager Jon Fortune said the city plans to make a presentation to Denton County on July 8 and check back with both the county and school district in late July or early August for a final decision. Tonight, he said, the city is looking to receive feedback from the school board on what level of participation the school district could potentially contribute to the project.

Meanwhile, the school board is slated to consider adopting a $212.5 million operating budget. According to district documents, operating expenses are nearly $4.7 million more than the $207 million in revenue the district projects to generate next fiscal year. District officials have said they intend to use reserves to absorb the deficit. Documents for the proposed budget can be viewed at http://bit.ly/1ndu0Cl.

Officials plan to recommend that the school board increase meal prices at elementary and secondary campuses by 25 cents per meal, in order to offset an increase in milk costs and employee compensation. Under the plan, elementary and secondary lunch prices would be increased to $2.75 and $3, respectively.

The school board meeting will take place at 6 p.m. in the Stephens Central Administration Building, 1307 N. Locust St.


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