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CPS Waits For 'Ink On Paper' In Tentative Tax Abatement Agreement With City

Ambriehl Crutchfield
CPS board members and city officials meet in Mayor John Cranley's office to announce a tenative agreement on the issue of tax abatements, which the two parties had struggled with for the better part of a year.

After more than a year of debate, the city and the Cincinnati Public School board have come to terms on a new 10-year tax abatement agreement.

The main hurdle was coming to an agreement on how much money developers will pay the school district when they receive property tax abatements. Those are called PILOTs, or payments in lieu of taxes. In the original agreement, it was 25-27% of abated property value. With this new deal, the school will get what it asked for - 33% of abated property value - but compromised on receiving $5 million from the city, like it had before. A CPS spokeswoman says under the new negotiations, the district will be made whole without it.

The full council needs to vote on Mayor John Cranley's proposal in order to make it official. 

Even so, the city and CPS still struggle to get on the same page on how much the district gets from the state.

"We agree that the math is different," CPS Board President Carolyn Jones says. "I think part of the next steps is to look at some of these numbers and then come to a final agreement. Where there is ink on paper."

Over the past few months, the city approved more TIF districts - which CPS called "a slap in the face." The city then opted to extend the original 1999 agreement for 90 days, with Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman offering the school district 31%. The school board also considered operating without an agreement. In the end, last year's deadline passed without an agreement reached. 

The parties agreed to the 1999 plan as a result of the city building Great American Ball Park and Paul Brown Stadium. In 2019, the district negotiated with FC Cincinnati to receive taxes from the team's new stadium in the West End. 

Mayor Cranley explained why he now supports the district's position of 33%. "Where I was able to get comfortable with 33 is that we did the math and we believe any way you slice it, either from 25 to 33 or from 5 to 33, they average an excess of $5 million dollars per year over the course of 10 years." He says he understands developers' need for consistency and believes it's appropriate for developers to pay it forward to the next generation.

There are still some details to iron out. The Business Courier reports three city council members are concerned about the agreement's impact on affordable housing. Mayor Cranley says it’s a city issue that doesn't involve the school district. "This deal by itself has no impact on the developers," he says. "Our policy at City Hall may have that impact and that's worthy of debate and discussion."

Cranley says he believes he has the five votes needed to pass the resolution.

CPS Treasurer Jennifer Wagner will report to the city next week how the district calculated its math in the agreement.