A balance of residential and commercial development is necessary to ease the burden on taxpayers, Olentangy schools director of facilities Andy Kerr told Liberty Township trustees last week.

A balance of residential and commercial development is necessary to ease the burden on taxpayers, Olentangy schools director of facilities Andy Kerr told Liberty Township trustees last week.

Kerr was asked by the township to make a presentation about growth in the district, township administrator Dave Anderson said.

The district continues to see increasing student enrollment, despite the economic downturn, Kerr said. Ten years ago, the district was projected to have 14,000 students by 2008, he said.

"We missed the 10-year projection by eight students," Kerr said. "Those projections are updated annually and have been accurate."

Including preschool, the district has 14,271 students. It is projected to have 20,123 students by 2018.

"We are expecting the rates to slow down. But even though new housing starts have slowed down, we're seeing a repopulation in homes where the families have grown and the empty-nesters have moved on and young families are moving in," Kerr said.

The district spends $10,433 per student per year on operating expenses and bond retirement, Kerr said.

"We receive from state and federal funds $1,533 per student. The balance has to be funded by local tax dollars," he said.

Since commercial development brings in tax revenue with no additional students, Kerr said it is beneficial growth for both the schools and residential taxpayers.

"If someone would say to me, 'Do you like commercial development?' I would say absolutely -- and that's not a popular thing sometimes to say," Kerr said. "However, commercial development brings in tax dollars and it doesn't bring kids. We believe there needs to be a strong blend of residential and commercial, because it relieves the tax burden on all taxpayers."

Trustee Peggy Guzzo said, "I can appreciate from a school's perspective the funding issue. As a trustee, it's trying to find a balance because we moved here not only for the school system but the quality of life. Not all commercial is created equal."

She said retail increases the need for infrastructure and the demand on police services.

"So while you may get funds for schools, you're then having to come up with funds to provide these other things. I do think we can do a better job attracting headquarters, corporate offices and some industry -- where it doesn't produce children yet increases the tax base and doesn't put a lot of burden on our infrastructure," she said.

School board member Dimon McFerson said, "The percentage of our taxes between residential and commercial has been slowly creeping up -- it used to be 72 percent residential, then 74, 76 and 77 -- more and more of the taxes in the district are dependent on the residential taxes."

Trustee Curt Sybert said the township has done a good job of encouraging nonresidential development, such as that on Sawmill Parkway and the Park at Greif, off U.S. Route 23.

"I think here in the township we've done a really nice job on Sawmill Parkway," Sybert said. "We've done a good thing here in the township, filling out Greif Brothers and adding income to the tax base."