Warsaw School Board Hears About Residential TIF District

Photo provided.

Winona Lake Town Manager Craig Allebach spoke Monday to the Warsaw School Board about a residential TIF district.

The Winona Lake Redevelopment Commission approved a resolution to create a residential TIF district during its Oct. 7 meeting. The area encapsulates a number of new developments that will be going in south of Stonehenge Golf Course, at the former Raccoon Run golf course and other areas in Winona Lake, including the area north of Heritage Lakes and along Pierceton Road to Miller Field.

Allebach said it is a tool that would allow Winona Lake to grow.

Board President Heather Reichenbach asked to clarify why a residential TIF plan needs school board approval when the school board and Redevelopment Commission are two different entities.

Todd Samuelson, of Baker Tilly, representing the school corporation, said the simple answer was the statute requires it.

“I think the logic there is the development of residential homes hopefully comes with students that need to be educated, right?” Samuelson said.

This type of TIF can bring families with school children and the legislature thought it made sense to have the Redevelopment Commission ask the school board for approval, said James P. Higgins, financial adviser at London Witte. As more children come in due to the fact that more homes are being built, it affects the school corporation.

Higgins said one of the reasons the legislature adopted the residential TIF statute in 2019 was because schools saw it as an opportunity to increase enrollment. The more students a school has, the more tax dollars it gets.

Higgins said people used to want green space. Now, employers today will say they want a qualified workforce and they’re very much into education.

He also said one of the first things people look at when moving to an area is how good the schools are.

Allebach said when Winona Lake looked at their comprehensive plan for the town, they looked at how to drive people to the town. He said people want to live in Winona Lake, and in some instances are buying homes before they get on the market. Allebach said Winona Lake has a housing shortage according to a recent housing study.

Allebach said Winona Lake is doing great things, such as the skating rink that is being planned in Winona Lake. He said the town is willing to work with the school board to help continue the resurgence they’ve seen in the last 20 years in population and try to continue it for another 10 years.

Reichenbach said the school board will be voting on the issue during its Nov. 16 meeting. Reichenbach said it will give the school board members some time to look at their notes and see if they have any other questions.

The school board also approved its 2021 budget, which totals $83,016,140. Of that, the education fund is $45,700,000; operations fund, $21,584,703; debt service fund, $11,152,437; referendum fund, $2,879,000; and the rainy day fund is $1.7 million.