Columbia School Board remains undecided on EEZs; Rose voices opinion

Monday, December 10, 2012 | 10:12 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — At the start of the Columbia School Board's Monday night meeting, Board President Tom Rose added discussion of enhanced enterprise zones to the agenda.

After lengthy public comment, the board decided to hold off on voting on the issue of EEZs. Rose gave his personal opinion about enhanced enterprise zones at the meeting. 

He said his concern wasn't blight or eminent domain. Rose said he sees the tax incentives it gives businesses as problematic. 

"For me, as a business owner myself, I think one of our largest problems is with the unequal distribution of wealth," Rose said. "This makes the wealthy wealthier." 

Melinda Hemmelgarn, Dean Andersen and Ken Green, all Columbia residents, spoke against EEZs. 

Hemmelgarn, who serves on the Columbia Area Career Center Advisory board, said schools will suffer from the tax breaks given to businesses as a result of EEZs. 

Board member Darin Preis said that while he would not publicly state his opinion because it was continually changing, he thought the community members against the EEZs were better at communicating their stance than those in favor of them. 

"It's a good sign that our community is so involved," Preis said. 

Board member James Whitt is the board's representative on the Enhanced Enterprise Zone Board. Whitt reported that the EEZ board's last meeting was canceled.

The meeting was canceled because the advisory board and the City Council are slowing down and looking for feedback from the community on EEZs, Whitt said. 

For this reason, the board made the decision not to have further discussion about EEZs or vote until a later date. 

Other issues:

  • The board discussed school start times being narrowed down to two possible scenarios. The board will vote on start times in February.
  • An audit of the district's finances found it was compliant with all federal standards. The board unanimously approved an audit of the financial statements of the district. According to the audit, though, the district did not have the best practice in regards to cash management, Linda Quinley, chief financial officer, said.
  • The board unanimously accepted the procedures for board candidate filing. Filing will begin at 8 a.m. Tuesday and end at 5 p.m. Jan 15.
  • Rock Bridge High School Jazz Band performed before the start of the meeting. The jazz band will be performing on Jan. 4 in Atlanta at an education convention. They are one of two high school bands chosen, according to the band's director Stephen Mathews. The band has had a successful season, with multiple members of the jazz band being chosen to play in both the All-State Concert Band and the All-State Jazz Band, Mathews said.
  • Members of the Minority Student Achievement Network gave the board a presentation on their recent conference in October in Phoenix. The organization will host next year's conference in Columbia on March 8 and 9. It has a $17,000 budget to work with, and the theme will be "Failure is not an option," Annelle Whitt said.
  • Susan Blackburn, the district's teacher trainer for Reading Recovery, updated the board on the program's progress and goals. Reading Recovery is a short-term program with two goals: to raise the student's reading level and for that student to be identified for future prevention efforts, Blackburn said.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

Like what you see here? Become a member.

Show Me the Errors (What's this?)

Report corrections or additions here. Leave comments below here.

You must be logged in to participate in the Show Me the Errors contest.


Mike Martin December 11, 2012 | 2:47 a.m.

"It's a good sign that our community is so involved," does not sound like a school board member (Darin Preis) who plans to do anything but go along to get along, i.e. vote for Blight/EEZ when time comes to do so.

And why not? Historically, the school district not only goes along with schemes like EEZs, but has directly benefited from them.

During the "Urban Renewal" years that decimated Columbia's black community with eminent domain and "land clearance for redevelopment," Columbia Public Schools (CPS) picked up a number of choice parcels, including land around Jefferson Jr. High.

The upshot: the historical momentum is in favor of CPS going along with Blight/EEZ, just like they went along with TIFs and just like they've gone along with footing the bill for the infrastructure around Battle High, much of it to service large new subdivisions nearby, built by developers with names like Atkins, Pugh, Wolverton, and Mendenhall.

It's a form of quid pro quo: CPS supports corporate welfare in exchange for support from the prominent for tax increases and that new $8 million admin building. After all, with tax incentives, prominent types and their businesses don't have to pay those higher taxes.

If you're finding all this hard to believe, check this out:

Supt. Chris Belcher joining hands with former REDI director Dave Griggs -- aka Blight's Biggest Booster -- in an op-ed supporting none other than tax incentives that drain money from public schools:

From that op-ed:

"The Columbia Public School District supports economic development and the strategic use of incentives...TIF provides an important tool for funding infrastructure development projects."

(Report Comment)

Leave a comment

Speak up and join the conversation! Make sure to follow the guidelines outlined below and register with our site. You must be logged in to comment. (Our full comment policy is here.)

  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Don't use language that makes personal attacks on fellow commenters or discriminates based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.
  • Use your real first and last name when registering on the website. It will be published with every comment. (Read why we ask for that here.)
  • Don’t solicit or promote businesses.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report comment" link.

You must be logged in to comment.

Forget your password?

Don't have an account? Register here.