Zionsville land swap could give schools, town a financial boost

February 20, 2014
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Less than a year after Zionsville Community Schools and the town of Zionsville joined forces to buy property for commercial development, they’re finalizing a land-swap that could result in more money for both entities.

The school district in May used $3.4 million from an old bond issue to buy 91 acres of prime Dow Chemical Co. property along 106th Street east of Zionsville Road. It planned to use about 10 acres for a new warehouse and maintenance facility, and sold the rest to the town for $3 million—payable over 25 years—plus the promise of a 50-50 split on any additional tax revenue resulting from the development.

Full build out of Creekside Corporate Park is expected to take about five years.

As planning efforts began in earnest, though—and Indianapolis-based Hat World Inc. snapped up about a fifth of the property for a new corporate headquarters—officials began questioning whether a tax-exempt use made sense there.

This month, officials came up with an alternative.

A tentative agreement calls for ZCS to give the town its Creekside land , along with about 10 acres on the northern portion of district-owned property on County Road 875 for a future public park.

The town, in turn, would hand over Jennings Field northwest of downtown (which will continue to host sporting events under school ownership), and agreed to make intersection improvements that would allow the school district to build its maintenance facility on the southern portion of the CR 875 land.

Adding 10 acres of developable land in Creekside should boost the expected increase in property-tax revenue, already expected to be about $1 million per year once construction is complete.

Every little bit helps the cash-strapped school district, which has struggled in recent years due to state property-tax caps and a new school-funding formula. Although it could not use the 2005 bond proceeds for anything other than land acquisition and construction projects, payments from the town are likely to be directed into the schools’ largely unrestricted General Fund.

Zionsville, meanwhile, is looking to draw commercial investment to diversify its largely residential tax base—another consequence of tax caps.

What’s your take on the creative collaboration, now that the development is taking shape?

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  • Good move
    I'm not familiar with this project in particular, but I think its a good thing that school districts are having to get move creative in order to keep funding themselves. For too long districts built without any sense of consequence, leading to the school funding problems we have today. Hopefully this teaches districts to act a little more reasonably with their money.
  • Error
    You may want to check, but I believe you are talking about 875 EAST and not 875 N.
    • Just 875
      Thanks for the note, Dave. Turns out it's just 875. Fix has been made.
    • South CR 875E
      The subject ZCS property is located at 4400 East CR 875E.
      • Correction...
        Sorry... 4400 South CR 875E.
      • Any Tax Benefits?
        1. Don't blame schools being cash strapped on new property tax formulas. Look also at the proliferation of TIF Districts that are moving funds from schools, parks and libraries and putting them in slush funds that local pols can use to reward their friends and benefactors. 2) Isn't this area in a TIF district meaning that tax benefits to the schools will be minimal?

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