The Urbana Board of Education met for its inaugural session of 2019 on Wednesday. The board elected new officers, heard a pitch from local investors about a potential hotel in the city, approved evaluations for the treasurer and superintendent and approved financial and personnel recommendations.
In the organizational meeting, the board elected Darrell Thomas to serve as the board’s president for 2019. Amy Paul was elected vice president. The board decided to keep meetings scheduled for the third Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. at the central office. All other committees and liaison roles will remain the same, as well.
The majority of Wednesday’s regular meeting was spent hearing a pitch from Champaign Economic Partnership and investors about the Urbana Hotel, LLC. The hotel is a proposed project in the south end of Urbana and is contingent upon land transfer and paperwork.
Investors were seeking a 15-year tax exemption from the school district in the form of an enterprise zone agreement (EZA).
“We’re not hotel experts. We don’t know how to run a hotel, but we think it’s good for the community and we’re looking for a partnership (with the school district),” investor Mike Major said. “We have a wonderful swell of enthusiasm for this hotel, but it is expensive.”
The proposed hotel would cost upwards of $5.5 million and employ 12-15 people, with more than 50 rooms for rent.
“The abated taxes would only be on the real property value, not the tangible property value containing the hotel. We don’t get tangible personal property anymore. And it’s not a loss of currently collected tax dollars,” Treasurer Mandy Hildebrand explained.
After lengthy discussion, the board seemed enthusiastic and passed the agreement unanimously later in the meeting.
“As far as the community, the city and the school, I think we all need to partner in economic development for the future of our schools,” Thomas said. “Schools are supported by the tax dollars. And we may be deferring it for 15 years, but we’re taking that leap of faith investment that this is going to generate more growth within the community, which then generates more revenue, which then generates more taxes for the schools.”
In other action, the board:
• Approved evaluations for both the treasurer and superintendent.
• Awarded a demolition contract for East Elementary and Local Intermediate schools.
Reach Justin Miller at 652-1331 (ext. 1775) or on Twitter @UDC_Miller.