With state funding for education on the decline, every dollar matters. In the last 10 years, state funds for Meridian Technology Center have been cut by more than 20%. Meridian’s mission is to train students to enter the workforce, work with existing businesses to make them stronger, and our business incubator supports the creation of new companies. Funding for Meridian is vital to ensuring we can fulfill the critical roles of educating students and economic development.
The Stillwater City Council wants to take money voters earmarked for Meridian and use it to stimulate economic development in an area that is already growing, if not thriving. Here’s how the proposed district is already growing – over $82 million in new development will soon be taxed and officially added to the tax rolls in 2019. This amounts to over $650,000 annually that will be diverted from entities like Meridian toward the TIF. For Meridian, this is a loss of $139,000 each year for 25 years. This doesn’t take into account any future growth. This is the equivalent of funding two classrooms with a capacity of 60 students total per year. That’s up to a potential impact of 1,500 students.
There are two main reasons why Meridian doesn’t support this TIF. TIFs are designed to stimulate economic growth in underdeveloped areas. This proposed area is already growing, if not thriving. The second reason is the City Council has provided no defined plan for use of the TIF money. No real costs are given, only a plan to collect revenue into a fund for some future use. A 25-year TIF is a full generation of students. In 1973 when residents voted to become part of the Meridian district, it was a vote of the people. Now a vote of 5 people on the city council can take funding away from entities that provide critical services such as education and access to health care by diverting it to the TIF. These are significant amounts.