City And CPS Board Disagree Over Tax Abatement Renewal

May 8, 2019

A City of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Public Schools agreement on property tax abatements is set to expire this year.

The agreement allows the city to exempt property taxes as an incentive to encourage development. The parties agreed to the 1999 plan as a result of building Great American Ball Park and Paul Brown Stadium.

CPS says it is currently losing tax revenue because of the agreement, but the city argues the district's net revenues have gone up because the abatements work to increase funding from the state.

"The 1999 original deal was not negotiated with the children at heart," says Michelle Dillingham, a coordinator with the Cincinnati Educational Justice Coalition.

Cincinnati has been paying $5 million per year to fill a void in CPS' budget. 

Developers are also asked to make payments on some of the abated values to the district. 

Education advocates say a letter from the city manager to the superintendent doesn't take all voices into account.

"It's pitting the entities - CPS board and the City of Cincinnati - against each other," CPS parent Marlena Brookfield says. "Painting the picture that it's you-versus-them. Well when are we the people of Cincinnati going to be a part of that conversation?"

The city is counting on funding from the state to help fill a void in CPS' budget. "Our thought when going into these negotiations is that instead of trying to predict 20 years down the road, what would make this school district whole?" asks CPS' general counsel Daniel Hoying. "We should be reimbursed every year on the fixed rate millage."

If an agreement is reached, it could create stability for the school budget and future economic development projects in the city.

According to the city, CPS leadership has discontinued discussions to reach an agreement.

The city manager says the city will be fine with or without the agreement.

If no agreement is reached between the two it will impact incentives the city can give to businesses and property owners.