Updated, 2:23 p.m.: More information; PDF added.
NORWALK, Conn. – The number of school children coming from new apartment complexes was debated Monday night at the Board of Estimate and Taxation meeting.
There are 25 students coming to Norwalk Public Schools from the Waypointe complex, Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Tim Sheehan said, with Board of Education Chairman Mike Barbis replying that there are 67 students coming from new apartments overall.
Sheehan was explaining, to the BET, financial incentives proposed as part of a new Innovation District.
“A number of employers” complain that their young employees can’t afford to live in Norwalk, Sheehan said, explaining a drafted financial incentive as “a twist on the 10 percent workforce housing” regulation, “you do a set aside for people who are actually working in the district.”
Half the workforce housing units would go to people employed in the district, according to the Innovation District brochure.
“It’s a little understated, King Chemical,” Sheehan said. “It’s amazing how many chemists are brought into that facility very day. These are young people with graduate degrees in chemistry that are doing real science and we don’t capitalize on their presence in this corridor.”
Housing is too expensive so it would be beneficial to help King keep its employees in Norwalk boundaries, Sheehan said, explaining, “Get them into a district, get them meeting up with their friends in the business district and cross pollinating with folks from the hospital at the local nightclub. I mean, that’s all good stuff that you want in districts such as this.”
BET member Artie Kassimis, a former BoE member, asked if the taxes generated by large apartment complexes would cover the cost of educating school children in those buildings, given the 50 percent tax break as an incentive.
Sheehan said there are 25 school kids from Waypointe, Barbis said 67 overall.
On Wednesday, Sheehan provided information to show that there are 52 school children stemming from South Norwalk apartment buildings, in addition to the 25 from Waypointe, a total 77. That includes children from the Sheffield, which is not part of the recent boom in apartment construction.
“Typically, urban multifamily does not contribute heavily to a school system,” Sheehan said Monday.
“I don’t think that’s true,” said Barbis, sitting in the audience. “Because look at where our 65 percent of students are Latino and … you can survey them, they all live in multi-family housing.”
The information came from Norwalk Public Schools, Sheehan replied.
“It depends on what you are calling multi-family housing and what we have done in terms of new development in the urban core. That new development has not contributed significantly to the Norwalk Public School system,” Sheehan said, then confirming that school children are coming from workforce housing units, a policy made by the city.
A lot of school children are coming from older multi-family housing, but not from the new developments, he said.
BET Chairman Ed Camacho later cautioned Barbis that it wasn’t a public hearing; Barbis said he needed to clarify the facts.
“That East Norwalk apartment complex, that was debated a lot,” Barbis said. “Zoning for the first time did some calculations and they thought that that building, I think ,was going to generate $800,000 in property tax a year. They also figured 20 students going to public school. That meant it would cost us $17,000 to educate a kid. Something like 75 percent of the tax revenue generated by this new building is going to be consumed by the schools. Between all the apartment complexes there’s 67 kids, including an outplaced kid going for special services. So it is having an impact. Tim, our schools are at 109 percent of capacity so every single additional student that comes to our school system is taxing us.”
Camacho said, “New schools are being built, too.”