Real Estate Developments and School Districts

By Charles K. Trainor

Consider this scenario: A retail development is coming, with an adjacent residential housing project of three- and four-bedroom homes. After years of negotiations, most local officials are ready to sign off on the project. The school district’s approval is required, too.

However, district leaders were not invited to participate in the negotiation process, so the terms of the agreement present a significant burden to the district. The project will boost the community’s population significantly, attracting families with young children.

The school board can turn down the insufficient subsidies offered by the developer and jeopardize hundreds of new construction jobs. Or it can approve the project, imposing a significant financial hardship on the district. A “no” vote will be portrayed in local media as a vote against the economic future and well-being of the community. Either way, the district loses.

Don’t let this scene play out in your district. Many aspects of community economic development have a direct impact on a school district. Your board needs to be well informed about federal and state regulations and the agencies that may bring development to your area. In addition, you will want to understand the various negotiating tools developers and governments use to compensate districts for the burdens of development.

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