Corporate welfare causing a catfight on Dayton School Board

Dayton Public Schools were one of the biggest losers when NCR picked up and moved to Atlanta. NCR paid a lot of property tax that funded the system and when the University of Dayton acquired the 25 acres with the former World Headquarters building for $18 million, that revenue went away. UD doesn’t have to pay property taxes as a “non-profit.” Unfortunately, neither do our large hospitals- Miami Valley Hospital, Grandview, Good Sam- all get a hall pass when it comes to paying property taxes despite paying executives multi-million dollar salaries+benefits and acquiring property left and right (the recent Premier Health Partners purchase of the former Citizen Federal/Fifth Third bank building at the corner of 2nd and Main also cut DPS tax revenue).

Never forget that it’s been a long time since the Ohio Supreme Court found Ohio’s formula for funding education through property taxes unconstitutional in 1997 and nothing has been done to change it.

The UD/NCR deal was thrown back in the spotlight when UD decided to underwrite a GE jet engine research facility on the former tax generating NCR property, serving as a false front to give GE a 15 year tax abatement. This “deal” was covered on this site in detail as it happened.

Now, we have political gamesmanship going on in the school board race, with Joe Lacey (who is not running and is the only school board member to have the guts to comment here) calling out the recently appointed replacement for Jeff Mims, Bill Schooler, a liar in statements made to the Dayton Daily News last week.

From today’s DDN:

Dayton Board of Education member Joe Lacey has filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission against fellow board member, the Rev. William Schooler regarding comments Schooler made about the General Electric multimillion-dollar tax abatement deal the board approved in July.

Schooler is running for the board seat he was appointed to last winter. Others vying for the three seats in the Nov. 8 election are incumbents Nancy Nerny and Sheila Taylor and challenger Robert C. Walker.

Lacey — who said he’s backing Nerny and Taylor in the election — alleged Schooler violated election law by making false statements designed to promote himself….

Schooler said in a recent newspaper article that he voted against the tax increment financing (TIF) arrangement in the board’s 4-3 decision because it will sacrifice more than $400,000 per year for the first 15 years of the TIF deal.

Lacey, who voted in favor of the TIF, noted the district “did not give or expend financial resources” as part of the approved agreement. “The district did vote to abate taxes on future property improvements under the tax increment financing agreement, but there was no abatement of currently existing property,” he wrote in the complaint.

To entice GE to pick Dayton, the city created the TIF plan to forgive all property taxes against the estimated $19.2 million facility for 15 years, then split the property taxes evenly between the city and Dayton Public for the next 15 years. The district would receive about $311,000 annually in the second 15 years under current distribution rates.

Lacey also took issue with Schooler saying the district likely will return to the voters with a levy in 2013-14 and have to explain why it gave $6 million in future property tax revenue.

“Mr. Schooler’s statements that the district ‘sacrificed’ and ‘gave away’ district resources are designed to alarm the voting public to support his candidacy because of his opposition to the district’s actions,” Lacey said in the complaint filed Tuesday…

A probable cause panel will hear the complaint Oct. 27 and decide whether a violation occurred, Executive Director Phil Richter said.

via BOE member files complaint.

The problem with all of Lacey’s argument is that while technically correct, that the School Board didn’t give away tax dollars that it was receiving- it lost those when UD took over the property, the reality is that GE can well afford to pay taxes and shouldn’t be allowed to hide behind UD’s tax abatement at all- it’s pure and simple corporate welfare handed out to one of the biggest tax evaders in corporate America.

If Lacey is saying that Schooler is lying about the need to go back to the voters for a levy, does that mean that Joe Lacey is guaranteeing that there will be no levy? Can we have that in writing, and who will enforce it? Certainly not the kangaroo court run by Mr. Richter and the Ohio Elections Commission which seems to make great efforts to go after minor losing candidates for campaign finance reports while leaving things like 17 members of Qbase senior management all donating $1000 ea to Congressman Steve Austria’s campaign, in the same week, with most of them never having given over $250 ever to anyone except for the former CEO and his wife.

A ruling on Oct 27th does nothing to solve the matter either, only adding more publicity to the rift between the two factions on the school board. To keep score, here’s the lineup: Yvvone Issac’s (the last remaining kids count candidate) and Stacy Thompson (highest vote getter in all Dayton races last year) and Schooler (the recently appointed member) all voted against the GE handout. Only Schooler is on the ballot of the minority block. For the majority vote you have Joe Lacey and Ron Lee who aren’t up for election and board president Nancy Nearny and Sheila Taylor who voted to give away the store.

Schooler is supporting the only challenger, Rev Robert C Walker, which could potentially shift the power to the minority if both are elected. Nearny almost didn’t make the ballot, which would have done this automatically had not the Board of (S)Elections found 8 additional signatures as good on her petitions (for the record, I signed her petition believing it is in the best interest of the voters to have the choice to make the decision- not the BOE).

The real question is are the voters even paying attention to any of this. When the Dayton Informer has asked the #Occupy Dayton protesters if they knew about the GE deal- most have been totally unaware that this kind of thing isn’t just happening on Wall Street but here in Dayton on South Patterson boulevard thanks to UD, GE and our current Dayton Public School board.

[full disclaimer, I own The Next Wave – a local advertising agency that is currently engaged in contract work for the Dayton Public Schools public information office- ultimately, any contract over $5k has to be approved by the school board, and by writing this I am taking a chance that the great work we are doing to transform the image of the schools could become a political football by my writing this. I believe the quality and value our work provides the Schools should outweigh any political repercussions from my attempt to honestly cover the important issues in our community]