Sevier School District officials say they are losing between $30,000 and $40,000 per year in tax revenue that is going to the Richfield Redevelopment Agency - money they believe could be better spent on student needs.
Board of Education member Carl Albrecht questioned during the last meeting of the group whether there has been economic benefit to redevelopment proj-ects in Richfield. Superintendent Brent Rock replied, "Just like anything else in life, it's a gamble."Two major projects have been completed in recent years with redevelopment funding, which is aimed at improving the economy by upgrading the downtown business district. Business owners have also contributed to the proj-ects.
There are nearly 50 redevelopment agencies throughout the state, and the Utah Legislature has requested a general review of the redevelopment program.
Redevelopment was designed to encourage improvements and growth within the communities and to improve blighted areas. Geographic boundaries are established by city councils, whose members also serve as officials of redevelopment agencies.
Taxes that went to school districts and counties from buildings and properties within the redevelopment boundaries before the redevelopment agencies were formed continue to be remitted to those entities. But taxes from new construction go to the redevelopment agencies. In Richfield's case, taxes from new motels and buildings are used to amortize costs of the downtown projects.
Increased vacancies of buildings in downtown Richfield were noted after the opening of a shopping center in the south sector of the city in the early 1980s. Former Mayor Sue Marie Young, who was in office at the time, pledged to work toward keeping the downtown area from becoming an eyesore and to keep downtown businesses viable.
Extensive improvement projects behind Main Street business buildings between Center and 100 North have been completed, mostly with redevelopment money. The largest project was behind the business buildings on the east side of the street, accomplished during Young's tenure. Another project was recently completed west of Main Street.
Overhead utility lines were relocated underground, large parking lots were developed and surfaced, and the back sides of the buildings refaced. Landscaping with trees added to the attractiveness of the area on the east side.
After loans for projects that have been financed through redevelopment programs are amortized, the agency in Richfield would not have more revenue, according to City Manager Woody Farnsworth. "I don't know if the redevelopment agency will more than make up for perceived short-term losses to the county or the school district," he said.
Some changes in the redevelopment program are likely to be introduced in the next Legislature, according to Doug West, state deputy legislative auditor general. He said that the department is in preliminary stages of preparing a report for the Legislature's Business and Labor Committee relative to redevelopment agencies.
West said there are differences in the ways agencies operate throughout the state. He added that the further away from the Wasatch Front the more there are differences. Most complaints about the program have been in the population centers.