YORK COUNTY, S.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — The Rock Hill School District has filed a lawsuit against the City of Rock Hill, stating the city “has fraudulently overcharged the district for utilities for the sum of $23 million” among other spending issues.
The school district said its lawsuit against the City of Rock Hill is asking the courts to help the district in enforcing its 2020 Third Agreement to the Intergovernmental Agreement, also known as the “Downtown TIF.”
Rock Hill Schools said it has historically partnered with the City of Rock Hill and County Council for several Tax Incremental Financing Plans, also known as TIFs.
The Downtown TIF was a consolidation made in 2020 of many past agreements, the school district explained in a press release.
Rock Hill Schools said it forfeited $85 million of tax income from the Knowledge Park area over a 30-year time period in exchange for a series of agreed-upon terms, such as:
- An educational space in Knowledge Park for student education and experiences
- Help with zoning on a property that the school district hopes to sell
- Renegotiation of utility rates
“As of today, the City of Rock Hill has failed to report their spending of the school district’s money in a requested independent audit, the zoning issue is still not resolved, there is no opportunity for students to learn in a dedicated space in Knowledge Park, and the City of Rock Hill has fraudulently overcharged the district for utilities for the sum of $23 million,” the district said in a statement on Monday.
The lawsuit also states that prior to the agreement with the city, Rock Hill placed several power meters at the schools, “thereby generating higher electricity bills for the district.”
The 2020 agreement was meant to also address this charging issue, but the school district said they believe they have been charged higher rates for something they said, under the agreement, they should have received wholesale.
Lawyers for Rock Hill Schools said in a statement, “We regret this litigation has become necessary, but the district is charged with educating students, a task it takes very seriously, and when it has been manipulated for improper purposes, litigation became necessary.”
Since February 2020, the school district said they have paid $10 million, which they said “upon information and belief” is not the wholesale cost.
Helena Miller, chairman of the Board of Trustees, addressed the lawsuit in a statement on Mondy saying, “The school district can be a partner in economic development when it benefits our students, but our only mission is to educate our students; the district’s goal is not being the financial mechanism for the city’s development projects.”
Miller said the district was forced to take this step to protect the educational future of its students. “We entered this agreement in good faith, and it is heartbreaking to see our students being taken advantage of.”
Miller went on to state that the school district has reportedly tried to work with city officials over the past two years, and this lawsuit was their last option.
The City of Rock Hill released a statement on the lawsuit at their council meeting Monday night.