Stephenville ISD board member Chad Elms says he will vote against Chapter 313 tax abatement.
I am writing to update you on an item we will be addressing in our January meeting of the SISD School Board. I have requested that we bring the Chapter 313 Agreement (whether to give a Tax Abatement to NextEra on the Solar Farm) to a vote this month for a couple of reasons.
One, this is something our community and ISD is counting on us to resolve. Second, I believe we (as board members and a community) have had more than ample time to sufficiently research this topic, and since it has been tabled for some time, I feel it is something we need to definitively handle at this time.
I want to take a few minutes to ensure the community knows my stance on the Chapter 313 Agreement.
I’ll be the first to say I do not feel I have the right to tell someone else what they can or cannot do with their land. After all, I wouldn’t want someone trying to prohibit me from using my land for a lawful purpose I felt was appropriate.
I also want to ensure the community understands the SISD School Board is NOT voting on whether we will allow a solar farm to come into the area; we do not have any jurisdiction over that decision and are only voting on whether to approve the Chapter 313 Agreement associated with the project.
In general, I’m wary of projects that require taxpayer subsidies and tax breaks in order to make them float. If a project doesn’t have enough merit to sustain itself without tax breaks and taxpayer subsidies, I immediately question the long-term value of the project.
Setting tax breaks, subsidies and my personal questions on whether solar power is really a reliable/sustainable source of energy in the first place aside (which I could devote a whole separate post to) I do not believe the solar project proposed by NextEra is a good deal for our community.
Additionally, I think the deal NextEra has proposed violates the “spirit” of the Chapter 313 Agreement because the project does very little to create economic development or bring jobs to our community.
Chapter 313, also known as the Texas Economic Development Act, was created to incentivize economic development by giving schools the ability to provide tax breaks to large companies bringing in facilities, economic infrastructure/development and a substantial number of jobs into a community.
The project NextEra has proposed does none of these, and I do not believe it to be a good return for our local taxpayers.
While we are fully capable of making an exception, Erath County did not feel the solar project brought enough economic impact or jobs to our community to make an exception to their guidelines, and I do not believe Stephenville ISD should either.
In concluding, there are always strings attached to opportunities that seem too good to be true, and I do not believe this one to be any different.
I have studied this issue extensively and feel strongly there are numerous, long-term consequences that could be very harmful to our community and school district (legal, financial, and environmental—again, each of these topics could be another post in and of itself) if the Chapter 313 Agreement is passed by our board.
Given the fact the project does not create economic development or add meaningful jobs to our community, I do not deem it a worthy project to give tax breaks to and cannot personally support the agreement or ask our local/state taxpayers to get behind it with their hard-earned tax dollars either.
In addition, knowing we will likely have to explore financial options on how to fund a new stadium in our near future (when Tarleton becomes FBS eligible, we will no longer have the ability to play our varsity football games at Tarleton Memorial Stadium).
I cannot, in good conscience, ask our local citizens to increase their financial contributions to our district for a new stadium as we allow multibillion-dollar companies to receive tax breaks.
If we, as a board or community, feel the need to incentivize companies to bring growth and add jobs, I would suggest we start by choosing any one of the dozens of our local entrepreneurs that have been doing business in, investing in, providing growth and jobs in, and raising their families in our community for decades vs incentivizing multibillion-dollar, out-of-state companies proposing a venture that would only bring 1-2 jobs to our local economy.
Stephenville ISD Board of Trustees