C-I School Board to hold hearing on hotel partnership

The Cambridge-Isanti School Board voted to hold a future public hearing on a proposed tax abatement in partnership with the city of Isanti during its June 22 meeting.

According to school district Finance Director Kris Crocker, the city of Isanti and the Isanti Hotel Partnership have proposed to Cambridge-Isanti Schools to participate in a property tax abatement to help fund a hotel to be built in Isanti. Crocker explained property tax abatements are a vehicle by which government entities may levy taxpayers for all or part of the cost of a parcel of property.

The city of Isanti has proposed a property tax abatement to last nine years, with the school district’s portion not to exceed $84,000, Crocker said.

Before the district can approve a resolution on the abatement request, the board must hold a public hearing. The board voted to do so, and the public hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. July 20 at the Education Services Center.

Superintendent Ray Queener suggested that based on the analysis of Ehlers, the district’s financial advisers, granting the abatement would not have significant impact on the taxes of residents within the district. He said no matter what happens, taxpayers would either not be impacted or their taxes could actually go down due to the expansion of the area tax base the hotel would cause.

“If all three entities support it, … it’s a net wash for our taxpayers,” Queener said.

Board Member Lynn Wedlund expressed concern that taxpayers might somehow be led to believe the money involved in the abatement was being used to benefit the schools directly, when it would actually be used to construct a hotel, which can only indirectly help the district. She also wondered what granting such a partnership could lead to in the future.

“Are we setting some sort of precedent with doing this for one entity?” Wedlund asked. “And what kind of situation would that put us in?”

Queener added he would normally not support such a partnership on the School Board’s part, but this has no meaningful consequences.

“The bottom line is there’s no impact to taxpayers for us to do this,” he said.

Other School Board notes:
• Queener acknowledged Director of Teaching and Learning Greg Winter has resigned and will be leaving the Cambridge-Isanti School District to become superintendent in the Melrose School District.

• The board approved the preliminary budget for 2017-2018. A 1 percent increase in general fund allocation was assumed. Budget projections included a 12.3 percent increase in the general fund total and a 9.2 percent increase in all funds total.