Industrial park school funding still questioned

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, January 6, 2004

Lincoln County supervisors Monday resumed discussions regardinga new industrial park, with board members remaining concerned aboutdivision of park revenue between the city and county schooldistricts.

“We need to move on the industrial park,” said District ThreeSupervisor Nolan Earl Williamson.

However, Williamson and other board members would like to find away for the city and county school districts to share revenue thatwould come from the new park. The supervisor said he wants to seerevenue divided based on percentage of students in each of thedistricts.

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“We’re going to be fair to all kids,” Williamson said.

New District One Supervisor the Rev. Jerry L. Wilson said theschool districts should get together and decide how to sharerevenue.

Officials, though, have found no laws that would allow oneschool district to share tax revenue generated in its district withanother. Williamson said he had asked legislators to pursuecreation of such a law.

The proposed park site is on 550 acres of 15th and 16th sectionland west of the city in the Brookhaven School District, meaningthe city school district would be entitled to property tax revenuepaid by industries that would locate there.

Supervisors Monday discussed seeking an official state AttorneyGeneral’s opinion regarding the revenue sharing issue.

Board members indicated that the opinion request should comefrom the Lincoln County School Board. Supervisors’ attorney BobAllen, who is also the attorney for the Brookhaven School DistrictBoard, said he would speak with county school district officialsabout asking for an opinion.

Williamson also proposed creating a “user fee” that would bepaid by new park industries or their employees to help the countyoffset cost of park maintenance and improvements. The supervisorsuggested 50 cents or $1 a month per employee, or that part of theindustry property taxes be aside.

“They do it in other states,” Williamson said, mentioningLouisiana, Texas, Wyoming, Nevada and Virginia.

Other board members were skeptical of the user feesuggestion.

“I don’t think that’ll work,” Wilson said.

District Four Supervisor W.D. “Doug” Moak agreed.

“I don’t see how you’d police that,” Moak said.

Williamson said later that he did not think the user fee wouldhave any effect on an industry’s desire to locate in thecounty.

“Why should a company want to come in here and be a burden onthe taxpayers?” Williamson said. “The purpose of getting industryis to build up the county.”

Williamson said the user fees would help alleviate some of theburden on the county for developing roads and providing otherservices to the park.

The board discussion on the park followed an earlier appearanceby Chandler Russ, executive vice-president of theBrookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce. Russ congratulatedofficials on their election victories and said the chamber islooking forward to working with them over the next four years.

When questioned about the supervisors’ discussion later Monday,Russ repeated initial findings that revenue sharing was somethingthat could not be done.

“It is our goal to work with supervisors and aldermen within theconfines of the law to build a new industrial park,” Russ said.

City and county officials have each been asked to pursue up to$2.2 million bond issues to help purchase land and develop thepark. Brookhaven aldermen last year voted to support the park, butan exact method of financial backing was not identified.