Tuesday, November 20th, 2007
By Janie Southard
School won't sign tax relief forms
  Celina City Schools will not sign off on applications for residential reinvestment tax abatements currently in the treasurer's office and will return the unsigned documents to the city, the district treasurer told school board members at Monday's meeting.
In the 1980s, the city passed an ordinance permitting tax abatements for industrial, commercial as well as residential reinvestment. During the past few years the school has accumulated several residential applications, which district Treasurer Mike Marbaugh has stated he will not sign.
"I've always questioned the residential portion of the ordinance (called Celina Reinvestment Area Tax Exempt Program), basically because I don't feel all residential improvements can be considered reinvestments," the treasurer told the newspaper following the meeting.
In the upscale sections of town, Marbaugh believes improvements are more convenience additions rather than reinvestment.
Moreover, over the past year, he's read more on the state law involved and has determined that signing off on the abatement application is not to signify a review of the program, as he once thought; but rather, it's an approval process.
"That's when I began questioning the abatements. Somewhere along the line the city included any residential improvement within the corporation limits as part of the abatement eligible area," he said, adding he's had several discussions with city officials about this matter, although it's not been a "top priority."
The Center for Public Management and Regional Affairs' Web site gives an overview of the Ohio Revised Code section (3735.65-3735.70), which allows communities to create Community Reinvestment Area programs.
Within that summary is the proviso that the community "must be able to demonstrate the structures within the CRA area are in a state of disrepair or in need of reinvestment" and such must be documented in the housing survey and made available to the general public.
The city is aware of the school district's position and has told Marbaugh they intend to review the ordinance.
Board members have set a special meeting for Dec. 3 at 6 p.m. in the high school lecture hall to discuss going back to voters for approval in March to renew an expiring tax levy.
The district's 0.75 percent income tax levy generated $2.4 million last year and will expire at the end of 2008.
The board has directed Marbaugh to get legislation on an earned income only tax, which would lessen the tax for most people. Pensions and investment earnings, for example, would not be taxed beginning in 2009.
Two resolutions are required to get on the March ballot. Final deadline is Dec. 20.
Board President Amy Hoyng encourages and welcomes public comment and attendance at the special meeting.
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