School Board Approves Property Tax Increase, Tax Break For Medical Isotope Plant

Article written by: Ethan Weston AND Javkhlan Bold-Erdene
Publication - Missourian
Date Posted - Sept. 18, 2018
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The school district’s property tax levy will rise by 9 cents later this month after the Columbia School Board voted to reverse a voluntary levy reduction on Monday.

The board also approved a contract with River City Construction for the new southwest middle school and voted to support a request by Northwest Medical Isotopes for a $5.6 million property tax break on the plant it plans to begin building in southeast Columbia. According to the project schedule, construction will begin later this year and should end in 2020.

The property tax increase approved Monday night will cost the owner of a $200,000 home an extra $34.20 a year. It would boost the district’s total levy from $6.0555 to $6.1455.

The increase will take effect Aug. 23 and will generate an estimated $2.22 million in additional revenue this year.

In 2016, residents voted to allow the school district to raise the property tax levy by 65 cents, but the district chose at the time to raise it by only 56 cents. Monday night’s vote implements the other 9 cents that voters approved.

“It is very important to help finance our compensation for our teachers and the general operation of the school district,” said Jan Mees, president of the Columbia School Board. “We have increasing needs, and this money is very important.”

The district also approved a bid by River City Construction of Ashland to build a new middle school in southwest Columbia. The board received eight bids altogether, and River City’s was lowest at $22.65 million. The highest bid of $24.62 million came from Little Dixie Construction.

The new middle school was approved in March and will be built near Sinclair Road.

The board also voted to advance a request by Northwest Medical Isotopes to receive a Chapter 100 property tax reduction of 50 percent for 10 years.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission granted the company a permit in May to build a radioactive isotope production facility at Discovery Ridge Research Park in southeast Columbia.

The city is a logical home for the facility; it will be working with the MU Research Reactor to develop an isotope called Molybdenum-99, according to previous Missourian reporting. The isotope is used in the diagnoses of cancer and other diseases. Mo-99 isn’t produced anywhere in the U.S., even though the country is the largest market for the isotope, according to previous Missourian reporting.

The company expects to create 104 jobs that would pay an average of $35 per hour. Its plant and equipment will be worth an estimated $108 million, which means the school district would get an additional $5.64 million in revenue per year, even with the abatement.

Representatives of Regional Economic Development Inc. have been making presentations to various taxing entities about Northwest’s request for Chapter 100 assistance.

Bernie Andrews, the nonprofit’s executive vice president, attended Monday night’s school board meeting.

“It is very important to this project because the Columbia Public Schools will be a main recipient of the real and personal property taxes from the project,” Andrews said in an interview with the Missourian. “So, it is very important to have their support to move forward to take this to the county commission.”

REDI will meet with the Columbia City Council next week. The Chapter 100 Review Panel, which includes representatives of each taxing district, will meet soon to recommend whether the Boone County Commission, which has the final say, should approve the tax incentives.