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Derry school board gets petition opposing TIF for development

| Monday, May 14, 2012, 5:28 p.m.

The Derry Area School Board should reject plans to use tax-increment financing to develop the Stemmler Farm property along state Route 982, according to a petition presented to the board.

The board accepted the petition, which was signed by 2,265 district residents and presented by Eugene Hankey of West Derry, but took no action on it at its meeting last week.

The board also has not taken any action on a proposal by McBroom Co. of Denver to use tax-increment financing, or TIF, to develop infrastructure for housing and commercial construction on the 100-acre Stemmler property, Superintendent Joseph Bellissimo said.

In September, the board voted to agree 'in principle' to consider the TIF proposal, which, according to those who voted in favor of consideration, would allow the board to see proposal figures.

TIF allows developers to borrow money for new construction projects and pay it back by diverting part of the new property taxes generated by the development.

Bellissimo said nothing would happen with the proposal until after the board examines it and public hearings are held.

After the meeting Thursday, Hankey said he had not heard any new developments on the TIF issue but had a 'gut feeling' the proposal would be brought up again this year.

Hankey said that since October, he, his wife and about 17 others have been collecting signatures from residents throughout the district, including those in Derry Township, Derry Borough and New Alexandria.

'We want to get these to the governing bodies and tell them what the people are feeling,' Hankey said of the petitions.

Hankey said his own concerns about the project include the development of homes on the Stemmler Farm property. Families moving into them would place a strain on district resources to educate their children. Enough children could even make it necessary to build additional schools, he said.

Because some tax revenue would be diverted to pay off infrastructure construction costs, additional buildings and resources would need to be paid for with an increase in taxes districtwide, Hankey said.

'I don't think a company that is going to build houses should be given TIF monies,' Hankey said.

McBroom initially proposed the project to Derry Township supervisors, who rejected it last June. The township, along with Derry Area schools and Westmoreland County, are the three property-taxing entities for the property.

When McBroom presented the proposal to Derry Township, company officials were seeking to borrow about $4 million over 12-15 years, to be paid back using 75 percent of the property taxes on the new housing and development. The remaining 25 percent was to go to the township, school district and county.

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