Westfield schools ask city for $2.5M to speed development

April 29, 2014
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Westfield-Washington Schools is asking the city to help pay for a new football stadium to accelerate construction and make way for what’s being described as a $40 million-plus commercial development at U.S. 31 and State Road 32.

The school district has agreed to sell 14 acres northeast of the intersection to a group of local investors with big visions for the site, Superintendent Mark Keen told the Westfield City Council on Monday.

A development plan expected to be submitted this week calls for a three- to four-story office building and hotel on 9.6 acres west of Shamrock Boulevard, now home to Westfield-Washington’s football/track stadium and junior varsity baseball field.

The deal also includes 4.5 acres east of Shamrock, where the district’s administration building currently stands, though that parcel won’t be developed immediately.

The initial projects could add $40 million in assessed value to the city’s tax rolls, Keen said, and the developer is eager to get started.

But proceeds of the land sale—about $4 million for the western parcel—aren’t enough to build a replacement football stadium, even with the pledges Westfield-Washington has received through its $7.5 million “Build the Rock” campaign.

So Keen asked City Council to contribute $2.5 million to “expedite our move.”

He took pains to describe the requested cash as an investment, rather than a gift. The distinction: The anticipated development should generate enough property taxes to repay the city in less than three years, Keen said. School-owned land is not taxed.

The new 5,000-seat stadium also would be a community asset, the superintendent said, potentially hosting more than 300 events a year thanks to the installation of artificial turf. (Grass fields need periodic “rest” periods.)

Keen said the venue has been planned since Westfield High School was erected in 1995, but development was sidelined during the residential boom as the district focused on building schools. The district has nearly doubled in size since then.

And commercial development east of the U.S. 31 interchange could spur additional investment along State Road 32 leading into downtown Westfield, he said, supporting the city’s ongoing Grand Junction revitalization initiative.

“It’s important to get going quickly,” he said.

Westfield-Washington accepted bids for the property last year, but declined to accept the lone offer it received. Mayor Andy Cook said he hasn’t seen the development plans, but he said councilors have been meeting with school board members for several months to discuss how the public entities can work together on economic development.

“If we can accelerate the private-sector use and move the property to a taxpaying entity, great,” he said. “We want to provide additional momentum to the commercial tax base in that area.”

Councilor Rob Stokes asked for more information about the proposed projects, which officials said will be made public after plans are filed. A representative of the development team declined to comment before then.

The council will hear public comment on the proposal at its next meeting May 12, President Jim Ake said, urging residents to share their opinions during the hearing or via email.

“We want to know if there is wide community support,” he said before sending off the standing-room-only crowd of green-clad Westfield schools supporters with a smile and hearty “Go ‘Rocks!”

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  1. Apologies for the wall of text. I promise I had this nicely formatted in paragraphs in Notepad before pasting here.

  2. I believe that is incorrect Sir, the people's tax-dollars are NOT paying for the companies investment. Without the tax-break the company would be paying an ADDITIONAL $11.1 million in taxes ON TOP of their $22.5 Million investment (Building + IT), for a total of $33.6M or a 50% tax rate. Also, the article does not specify what the total taxes were BEFORE the break. Usually such a corporate tax-break is a 'discount' not a 100% wavier of tax obligations. For sake of example lets say the original taxes added up to $30M over 10 years. $12.5M, New Building $10.0M, IT infrastructure $30.0M, Total Taxes (Example Number) == $52.5M ININ's Cost - $1.8M /10 years, Tax Break (Building) - $0.75M /10 years, Tax Break (IT Infrastructure) - $8.6M /2 years, Tax Breaks (against Hiring Commitment: 430 new jobs /2 years) == 11.5M Possible tax breaks. ININ TOTAL COST: $41M Even if you assume a 100% break, change the '30.0M' to '11.5M' and you can see the Company will be paying a minimum of $22.5, out-of-pocket for their capital-investment - NOT the tax-payers. Also note, much of this money is being spent locally in Indiana and it is creating 430 jobs in your city. I admit I'm a little unclear which tax-breaks are allocated to exactly which expenses. Clearly this is all oversimplified but I think we have both made our points! :) Sorry for the long post.

  3. Clearly, there is a lack of a basic understanding of economics. It is not up to the company to decide what to pay its workers. If companies were able to decide how much to pay their workers then why wouldn't they pay everyone minimum wage? Why choose to pay $10 or $14 when they could pay $7? The answer is that companies DO NOT decide how much to pay workers. It is the market that dictates what a worker is worth and how much they should get paid. If Lowe's chooses to pay a call center worker $7 an hour it will not be able to hire anyone for the job, because all those people will work for someone else paying the market rate of $10-$14 an hour. This forces Lowes to pay its workers that much. Not because it wants to pay them that much out of the goodness of their heart, but because it has to pay them that much in order to stay competitive and attract good workers.

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  5. It is sad to see these races not have a full attendance. The Indy Car races are so much more exciting than Nascar. It seems to me the commenters here are still a little upset with Tony George from a move he made 20 years ago. It was his decision to make, not yours. He lost his position over it. But I believe the problem in all pro sports is the escalating price of admission. In todays economy, people have to pay much more for food and gas. The average fan cannot attend many events anymore. It's gotten priced out of most peoples budgets.

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