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Published: Tuesday, 6/3/2008

Toledo, TPS continue to debate tax issue

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said yesterday that the city would stick with its offer to Toledo Public Schools in exchange for approving tax abatements for the planned $320 million Marina District on the city's east side.

"Generally speaking, yes," the mayor said when asked whether the city would hold firm to its offer that totals $7.5 million.

Both sides yesterday said they continued to negotiate a resolution to a dispute over how much the school system should be paid in exchange for abating the taxes and essentially approving legislation needed to start construction of the Marina District retail and residential development.

"We have offered to talk some more, and we are waiting for them to come back with an answer, which we have yet to receive at this point," TPS Superintendent John Foley said.

The district initially asked for $1.125 million a year in cash for 15 years; $300,000 a year in capital improvement money to benefit the schools, also for 15 years, and about $600,000 a year for school crossing guards, which was cut out of the city's budget for this academic year.

The city's counteroffer last week was $500,000 annually for 15 years to pay for capital improvement projects around the district's schools - totaling $7.5 million.

Councilman Mike Craig, whose district includes East Toledo, said he was unsure how the negotiations were proceeding but confident both sides would agree on terms.

Developer Larry Dillin has been chosen by the mayor to create the "Riverfront Park at Toledo Marina District" on 125 acres along the Maumee River between Main Street and I-280. The private portion of the Marina District is estimated to be $320 million, and the public portion, a riverfront park and road, is valued at $20 million.

Ohio school districts receive tax revenue from new developments, such as the Marina District or a new factory. Taxes usually are abated to promote the development, and the school system instead receives a payment in lieu of taxes. That payment generally is a percentage of the amount the district would have received.

TPS Treasurer Dan Romano said the district usually asks for 67.5 percent of what the school system would have otherwise received from the taxes.

The financing structure includes using a community reinvestment area for the first 15 years and overlaying a tax increment financing area for the following 15 years.

Board of education President Steven Steel said the board is unwilling to approve the abatement without some compensation - which was the city's original plan.

"We are just trying to protect the interests of our taxpayers as best we can," Mr. Steel said. "We don't want our taxpayers to be the only ones to shoulder the burden."

The board of education's finance committee meets tomorrow on the matter.

The school board is planning a special meeting Friday to vote on the agreement that results from the committee meeting.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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