New council, same problems

In the debate over the Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook (CLM) development—a contest between a coterie of malcontent gadflies and civic cheerleaders who buy whatever borscht is served by City Hall—two simple yet vital math equations are unanswered, no matter how many times I ask 40 Severance Circle. In fact, I asked just the other day and, as of the time of my writing this, March 16, no one has answered the two simple questions—not our mayor, who has been in office the entire time this latest development has been negotiated, nor our council president, whose e-mail address has several abbreviations that intimate a more than basic understanding of math.

My first question has been: How long will it take for the city to recoup the cost of the land that it is leasing (and then maybe selling) to the developer for less than $500?

By my estimation the city has spent between $600,000 and $1 million on these properties. Based on income tax from construction workers and new residents, then savings on debt payments for the garage, the city may recoup these costs within four to six years (based on conservative numbers), so converting public assets into private ones may be a good deal—one you would think SOMEONE at City Hall would diagram on a single sheet of paper and broadcast. When I ask City Hall if my math is correct, a selling point for a controversial project, the answer is . . . silence.

The bigger question is: Am I reading correctly in the development agreement between the developer and the city, dated Dec. 9, 2021, on page 3, item H, that the project is requesting from the CH-UH school board a 100-percent/30-year TIF for the CLM project? Is this correct, that they want to have ALL of the new property tax revenue applied toward the TIF?

Based on the developer’s RFP response, this project would generate $1.5 million a year in new property taxes, BUT . . . ALL of the new revenue would pay for the TIF, meaning the school district would receive $0 in new revenue, and the projected $45 million in new taxes would go to cover UNSPECIFIED costs of the development—a project that has hard and soft costs of around $52 million. 

When I ask if my math and synopsis is correct, that this project will generate NO NEW REVENUE for the schools, our mayor and our council president cannot (or will not) answer with a simple yes or no. Instead, they are punting to the school board to either reject the project outright (and be the bad guys) or do the negotiating that City Hall either lacks the spine or the mind to do.

I fail to see how projects like this—where the developer receives public assets for pennies on the dollar, and which do nothing to reduce the tax burden for RESIDENTIAL property owners—squares with the alleged “progressive” ideals of CH City Council. Furthermore, if the school board signs off on 100-percent abatement for 30 years, how can the board ever go back on the ballot with a school levy? It makes no sense to ask those who live here to pay more in taxes, while at the same time letting those who profit from our community contribute NOTHING.  

As [far as] I know, the aforementioned officials have my e-mail and phone number; they should feel free to use them and let me know if my math is correct. If council (and the mayor) would like a tutorial on school funding (and basic math), I would be more than happy to provide one. 

The problem with the plans for CLM and the color green is, it isn’t about the grass; it’s about the cash.

Eric Silverman

Eric J. Silverman was a member of the CH-UH school board from 1994 to 2001, and again from 2014 to 2017. He was a member of the Heights Libraries board from 2003 to 2009.

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Volume 15, Issue 4, Posted 2:13 PM, 04.01.2022