TEDD expansion advances, school says they were misled

Published for the 11/2/18 print edition of Yellowstone County News. 

LOCKWOOD — A proposal to expand the TEDD (Targeted Economic Development District) in Lockwood passed first reading at a public hearing on Tuesday, with an amendment that would direct 25 percent of its future revenue back to other taxing jurisdictions.

All three Yellowstone County Commissioners supported the proposal that will more than double the size of the TEDD, after Commissioner Denis Pitman moved to add the amendment. A second public hearing, where the commissioners will make a final decision, will be held at 9:30 a.m. Nov. 13 in the County Commissioners’ conference room in the Stillwater Building.

Pitman’s amendment was offered to mitigate the impact of the TEDD on the Lockwood School District, whose board of trustees stand opposed to the expansion.

Pitman said that he “struggled” with the issue because he understands the value of TEDDs, but also understands the dilemma faced by the School District. 

“I think there has to be some discretion in the distribution of revenues,” he said. 

Lockwood School Superintendent Tobin Novasio spoke on behalf of the school board, saying that at the formation for the TEDD the board decided to remain neutral, so long as the TEDD was not expanded beyond the boundaries, which were finally settled upon at its creation two years ago. The TEDD, which is essentially a tax increment finance district, was created under the auspices of Big Sky Economic Development as a means of funding a “ready-to-go industrial space,” to attract “value adding economic development” – i.e. manufacturing businesses. The proposed expansion, now being considered, brings the TEDD back to near the size that was originally proposed at the very beginning of discussions about creating a TEDD. 

At that time school board members objected to its size, even while split about the benefits of the concept. Novasio reminded that the School Board sent a letter to the County Commissioners, on Nov. 14, 2016, stating their position of remaining neutral on its creation as long as the size remained as was finally settled upon.

Novasio said that was a mistake. 

“We should have opposed it from the get-go,” he said. “We feel like we were sold a different bill of goods.”

Novasio said that he served read more

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