The proposed in recent Richfield history, with opponents and supporters becoming increasingly vocal about their positions.
While opponents have mostly cited a possible rise in crime and traffic, and a decrease in property values in the area as major concerns, the impact of the project on the Richfield Public Schools system is also becoming an important platform.
According to , the district is not in the business of getting involved in a situation like this.
“The school board has said clearly it’s not the school district's responsibility to get involved with zoning,” Slotterback said. “In the same way it’s not the city’s job to get involved with setting lunch prices, or hiring principals, or determining class sizes.”
agreed saying, “We’re not taking a position on this. Our feeling as a school district is that anyone who comes through our doors to be educated are our kids.”
Schwartz was also clear that the project would not cause the schools to lose money, despite what some may think.
“The bottom line is that we aren’t affected by this either way,” he said. “We’ll get paid in full by the state.”
In terms of (TIF), which the developer is applying for, had this to say:
"If a TIF District were to be approved then the property owner would have a semiannual tax payment due on the entire value of the project. That tax payment would be sent to Hennepin County who would then return any portion that is considered 'tax increment' to the Richfield HRA to be distributed by them in accordance with whatever the TIF Plan and Redevelopment Agreement ultimately state. The taxes on the 'base value' of the property, however, are not considered tax increment and those taxes would be split up amongst all the taxing jurisdictions (including the Richfield Public Schools) at the same ratio that all other property taxes are divided by the taxing jurisdictions on all other properties."
Schwartz also said if an additional levy was passed by vote, TIF districts would be required to pay their fair share of the additional amount approved.
Aside from the financial aspect, Slotterback said there is an important educational issue that can be seen from both sides.
Some opponents have suggested the school district’s attempts to and increase the graduation rate will be negatively affected by the affordable housing project. Slotterback said there have been studies that show high concentrations of poverty generally have lower student performance. So it could be argued that an affordable housing complex such as Pillsbury Commons would increase the concentration of poverty—if one accepts that argument. However, Slotterback said it was impossible to draw a line between the two with absolute certainty.
Slotterback also said this project has now become an emotional issue for the community, and facts and numbers can be twisted to fit either position.
"Many people don't understand how graduation rates are calculated," he said. "I've heard someone say the rate is 47 percent and I've heard someone say it's 90 percent. There are a lot of different ways you can look at it."
While the district won’t take a position on the development, both Schwartz and Slotterback were adamant about the school’s position as a servant of the community.
“Anyone who walks through those doors are our kids,” Schwartz said again. “And we will work to serve them regardless of their socio-economic situation.”