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City And School District Discuss Development

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Jenks Public Schools makes waves Wednesday night in a plan to develop the Arkansas River. Jenks' mayor wants to use tax increment financing or a TIF district to spur a billion-dollar development. But, The News On 6's Ashli Sims reports the school superintendent says that would put a big financial burden on the school district.

Jenks School leaders say they're all for development. They just don't want to build on the Arkansas River on the backs of the schools. The City of Jenks is trying to get a billion dollar idea off the drawing board and onto the banks of the Arkansas River.

"Will ultimately be probably the largest development in the state of Oklahoma," said Jenks Mayor Vic Vreeland.

The developers say they can make it happen if the city gives them a tax increment financing or a TIF district.

A TIF district would freeze property taxes at their current rate for 18 years. Any revenue above that rate would go back to the developers to pay for infrastructure. A review committee has met several times trying to hammer out the details.

"We're trying to make where everyone, where it's palatable for all of the taxing jurisdictions. Hopefully, we can get there," said Jenks Mayor Vic Vreeland.

Jenks Public Schools is wary of the current plan. The district stands to gain more than $12 million a year in property taxes. It only gets about $7,000 from the area right now. But, those gains won't come for 18 years. The school superintendent says the costs will add up long before the revenue does.

"Economic development of this type does have an impact on student growth," said Jenks Superintendent Dr. Kirby Lehman.

Dr. Lehman points to the rising Tulsa Hills development on the edge of their school district. A whole new subdivision is sprouting in the shadow of the big-box stores, yet to open. Those additional families mean more future Jenks students.

"The Tulsa Hills development was announced. And, for the last three years we've grown between 225 to 240 kids per year," said Dr. Kirby Lehman.

Jenks says the same thing will happen with the river district. And, they want the developers to pay them $2.5million every year for five years to help blunt the financial impact on the schools.

"The growth, student growth caused by the economic development should not be placed on the back of the Jenks taxpayers. They have enough on their backs already," said Jenks Superintendent Dr. Kirby Lehman.

The developer had offered the school district about $ 500,000 a year to help with added costs. But, Jenks school leaders say that's not enough to finance new buildings for all of the new students they anticipate.

The committee will discuss the district's proposal next Tuesday afternoon.

Originally aired 11/7/2007 5:28 PM - Updated 11/16/2007 5:45 PM

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