by Max Brantley
Ultimate NLR Leader Pay Hays got supporting fire today from the Democrat-Gazette editorial page on his unconstitutional and illegal grab of school tax money for a downtown development scheme.
The DOG's defense rests on a complete misunderstanding of the facts. (It grows from a contorted stretch to continue the paper's crusade for charter schools or just about anything that tears down support for local public school districts.)
For a better account, see my column this week.
The D-G wrote, in part:
The matter this time: Pat Hays, the can-do mayor of North Little Rock, has dared take advantage of the state’s Tax Increment Financing law. Which is supposed to work this way: Local government goes into debt to redevelop a rundown area. Developers move in, start raising property values, and any increase in property taxes collected on the new development goes to pay the public for redeveloping the neighborhood.
The developers get the incentive they need to build, the politicians take credit for the growth, and the community benefits from the better neighborhood that replaces the slum. Everybody’s supposed to benefit, including the school district, when the neighborhood produces more tax revenue for all units of local government to share, city and school district alike.
Here's what's wrong with that, in part. The nub of the disagreement between the NLR School Board and Hays is his effort to capture school property taxes from the $30 million Enclave apartments, long ago completed and under rental. The complex sits in a redevelopment district created years ago but never activated. 1) Local government did NOT go into debt to redevelop that area. 2) Since no redevelopment was done, there is no repayment to the public due for improvements around the Enclave property. 3) Developers of the Enclave got NO INCENTIVE to build. 4) Politicians are due no credit for the growth. 5) The Enclave property taxes that Hays is trying to steal were voted by NLR voters solely for operation of NLR public schools.
Other than that ...
Hays could legally create a district around the Rye Furniture property for a hotel and devote the incremental increase in property taxes there to that development without a howl from the NLR School Board.
It was his outrageous gerrymander, snaking the alleged new TIF district five blocks down a city street to claim it was connected to the Enclave that rightly moved the Board to protect the interests of children.