Sunday, August 8, 2004

Schools assured of share

Cote Brilliante in Newport would get some tax breaks

By Karen Gutierrez
Enquirer staff writer

NEWPORT - The Newport School District should get about $405,000 in annual taxes from the Cote Brilliante neighborhood if the city's redevelopment plan moves forward, City Manager Phil Ciafardini said.

That's about 10 times what the schools received from the same 56 acres just a few years ago, he said.

Ciafardini's calculations come as the city works on a $92 million deal to develop the hilly area of mostly abandoned homes into retail stores and apartments.

The city has agreed to issue bonds to finance the project. The developer, Montgomery-based Bear Creek Capital, would use its profits to pay off bonds.

Bear Creek has the next several months to study the site near Interstate 471 and Carrothers Road and decide whether to commit.

The site's development is complicated by hillsides, a creek and highway rights-of-way, Ciafardini said. As an incentive to Bear Creek, the project would be exempt from property taxes.

Such taxes are the primary revenue source for the Newport School District, which has complained about similar tax breaks for developments like Newport on the Levee.

But the schools would still benefit from Cote Brilliante in the form of taxes on business equipment and on luxury homes planned for the surrounding area, Ciafardini said.

In addition, the city has negotiated with Bear Creek a $383,594 payment in lieu of taxes. It's "fair to say" that some of that money would go to the schools, Ciafardini said.

He and the city's finance director, Greg Engleman, met recently with Newport's new superintendent, Michael Brandt.

On the job just one month, Brandt inherited an atmosphere of distrust between the city and school officials. One point of contention was tax breaks.

Brandt said he's eager to forge an alliance with the city, which has agreed to share with the school system more detailed projections of revenue from redevelopment.

"Generally, I think the (school) board is thrilled that there are major improvements and development coming into the city," Brandt said.



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