• 70°

Rock Hill district could be in the money

County negotiated tax incentives designed to attract Duke Energy’s natural gas power plant to Hamilton Township could mean the early payoff of the Rock Hill School District’s new school levy.

Friday, June 08, 2001

County negotiated tax incentives designed to attract Duke Energy’s natural gas power plant to Hamilton Township could mean the early payoff of the Rock Hill School District’s new school levy.

In a deal that grants Duke a 100 percent tax abatement in exchange for payments in lieu of taxes, the billion-dollar company will make cash payments three years early so the school system can apply the money to its construction bonds, county commissioners said Thursday. [Click here to read the incentive deal]

"Our share of local taxes is 72 percent, so the school system is the biggest player," said superintendent Lloyd Evans, who has been involved with tax break negotiations in recent weeks.

"If it goes as planned, the school bond would be paid off as early as possible and (the 3.78 mills) removed from the tax rolls," Evans said. "Myself and the Rock Hill board has made this a very high priority and that’s one reason Duke agreed to the idea."

Although the deal means less money to taxing districts than what would normally occur, payments in lieu of taxes becomes a bigger benefit to schools districts, Evans said.

If the money went on the tax rolls, the district would collect more local money but the state’s funding would be reduced and the district lose money, the superintendent said.

"Now, we’ll probably have our buildings paid off before we move in," Evans said. "The cooperation with all the government entities was great Everybody worked together for the benefit of the county and the retention of the most possible benefit of Duke locating a plant here."

County commissioner Jason Stephens, who also worked in the recent negotiations, read a statement Thursday on the tax incentive proposal, calling it unprecedented.

"To receive this amount, this early, is a benefit to all taxing entities because they normally would not have to pay anything until 2005," Stephens said.

Under the incentive, payments will start in 2002 and will be distributed by a percentage that reflects how taxes are distributed now to such entities as the schools, the county, Hamilton Township, Hamilton Township Fire Department, Lawrence County, Lawrence County Joint Vocational School, Board of MRDD, and the Board of Health (Health Department), he said.

"And there will be a lot of happy people in the Rock Hill district," commissioner George Patterson said, adding that the deal is a winning situation for the people of Lawrence County.

Rock Hill’s school levy payoff would be soon, but exact timing depends on everything from whether or not Duke picks Lawrence County to finalized incentive negotiations this summer, Evans and other officials said.

"It’s a homerun for the county, and especially for Rock Hill," commission president Paul Herrell said.

Exact figures and details of Duke’s tax incentive package can be found on Page 5 today, and on the Internet at www.irontontribune.com