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School Officials: ‘Anyone Who Walks Through Those Doors Are Our Kids’

Richfield Public Schools officials address the Pillsbury Commons project’s potential impacts on the district.

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.”

Richfield Commoners United April 21, 2012 at 03:24 AM
From you and Me...
Richfield Commoners United May 16, 2012 at 02:07 PM
At the May 8th City Council meeting it was revealed that members of the city council & HRA commission had been privately contacted by Ron Clark to discuss his new proposal. The topic was brought up when Fred Wroge announced that Ron Clark had called his private phone to request a meeting. Councilman Wroge declined Clark's request, Tom Fritzhenry also declined saying "If he has something to say he can say it to all of us." , When Wroge's 'outing' of Clark prompted Councilman Elliott's admission that he too had been contacted and met with Ron Clark, saying he would not apologize for behind closed door meetings.
Richfield Commoners United May 16, 2012 at 02:07 PM
Given that Ron Clark Construction has received ample time to present their plans to the City Council, HRA and the Planning Commission in meeting after meeting it is very suspect that they would want to meet in round robin format with the HRA and City Council and circumvent Minnesota's Open Meeting Law. Where is the transparency with dealing with Ron Clark? Shouldn't his plans be discussed in the open? What does Ron Clark have to say to them about Pillsbury Commons that cannot be said in a public meeting? While it is unknown if Ron Clark Construction violated any laws, the ethics of this matter is certainly not becoming of a recipient of the Minnesota Business Ethics Award and someone who says, “Honesty, integrity and fair play have always been of utmost importance to us." Please contact members of the City Council and the HRA and let them know that meetings with Ron Clark Construction or their representatives outside of public meetings is not ok.
Caitlin Burgess May 16, 2012 at 02:13 PM
I'm hopefully talking with Ron Clark sometime this week to get his side of all this recent stuff. The reason for the changes, why they went with those changes, if he feels the private meetings are ethical, etc. Stay tuned!
Richfield Commoners United June 01, 2012 at 02:29 PM
So now we need to ask if TIF sheds some tax dollars to the school system. In all Ron Clark will only pay $3900. per year in taxes on the land for 30 years, what will the school get in cash for the next 30 years? The next question that should be asked is this, Kennisington Place on 76th and Lyndale was given $500K in up front TIF but now the courts have decided that Richfield was a second mortgage and we not getting one cent back ? How much did the school system loose on that one? Ron Clark is the only one walking away with the cash in hand!

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