Columbia's very public discussion about a proposed Enhanced Enterprise Zone in the city made an appearance at Monday night's School Board meeting, where residents said the policy could negatively impact education funding by reducing tax revenue to schools. The EEZ policy has been supported by some economic development groups to encourage new-business development in the city.
Five Columbia residents spoke out against the EEZ policy in the Columbia School Board's public comment session Monday night.
Columbia Resident Dan Hemmelgarn said tax abatements in EEZ policy could hurt students by reducing the property taxes going into public education.
“It seems to me that corporations should make their profit on the sale of their product or the sale of their services, not on the backs of our children’s education," Hemmelgarn said.
Fred Demarco is a developer in town. He said the tax break is just a vehicle for business to get free money. Other speakers also questioned the effectiveness of EEZ’s policy in creating jobs.
School Board Member Jan Mees said the board needs further discussion on the issue.
"It’s amazing the passion that we have on both sides of the issues," Mees said. "The board itself honestly has not had a chance to have a discussion among ourselves about how we feel about this. I believe that is slated for our December meeting."
James Whitt is the representative for the Columbia Board of Education in the EEZ advisory board. He will carry the message of the school board to the EEZ board after the board's meeting on Dec. 10.