The city of Xenia and Central State University are separated by about six miles along the Ohio to Erie Trail, but the bike path is city-owned, and that tether may be enough to extend the city limits into the campus.
City Council members will vote tonight on the first of a series of resolutions to petition for a type-II annexation — referred to as string and balloon annexation — of 159 acres of the state-owned university property.
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Central State and Xenia officials cite several potential benefits. The university would get city services, such as public safety and utilities, without paying a surcharge. The annexation will lead to “future joint economic, educational and development expansion,” according to the city’s press statement.
But not everyone is in favor of the move.
Xenia Twp. Administrator Alan Stock is expected to speak at the meeting before the vote.
“Annexation is a process that favors only one form of governance to the exclusion of any other and denies a complete partnership,” Stock said. “Annexation never stops with the initial parcel(s), if one governmental entity can reap revenue and garner more land to the detriment of another governmental entity.”
The city is expected in the coming weeks to submit for review the first phase of the annexation to the Greene County Board of Commissioners.
Under state law, if all the requirements are met for such an annexation, the commissioners will be obligated to approve the petition, and two subsequent petitions will move forward to complete the annexation, slated to happen in 2019.
Nodie Washington, retired Procter & Gamble manager and former instructor at Central State, said there are two reasons to oppose the annexation: Eliminate any possibility the city would annex the Wilberforce community and maintaining CSU’s “historical legacy” with Wilberforce.
“While times change and institutions must reach out for assistance, I think CSU’s needs can be met via innovative approaches to form partnerships and not via annexation to Xenia,” Washington, a former Xenia school board member. “CSU annexation to Xenia breaks the historical bond between CSU and the Wilberforce community. While this may appear to be a trivial point, I think it is an affront to our ancestors.”
City officials have said they do not plan to annex the Wilberforce community.
Melva Newsom, CSU graduate and president of the Wilberforce Community Property Owners Association, said no member of her association is in favor of the idea and she hasn’t found an alumnus who is for it either.
“We were not included in any discussions, any plans, any announcements, bulletins. Nothing,” Newsom said. “If you’re doing something above board, why all this secrecy? It makes some of us who’ve been around for a little while a little bit skeptical.”
Newsom is concerned not only for the potential of further annexations by Xenia if this one is approved, she wonders about the impact the city’s 2.25 percent income tax will have on students and staff members who work on the campus.
“Central State doesn’t pay that well,” she said. “It will make it more difficult to get quality staff.”
Campus workers wouldn’t be impacted by the income tax until next year, but Xenia City Manager Brent Merriman said the issue is also a concern for the city and the university.
“The university is evaluating steps they may take to help with this transition,” Merriman said. “At the end of the day, this is about providing a mechanism for sustainability. A lot of strength comes out of this.”
Central State has published information aimed at answering common questions about the proposed annexation.
“Approximately half of all employees will experience incremental impact on their tax withholdings in mid-2018,” according to the university.
Exceptions would be if the employee resides in the city of Xenia or if the employee resides in a neighboring city that has a reciprocity agreement with Xenia, which enables two municipalities to receive a shared portion of the employee’s income tax.
As a land-grant institution, CSU is “obligated to provide research and extention services to 10 counties,” and the annexation will help the university achieve that mission, according to the university.
“The partnership allows for representation on various city commissions, engagement with city management to attract industry, stronger and better relationships with the school district to support teachers and enhance students’ preparation for college; internships, co-op experiences and employment opportunities for students; and additional and expanded security and safety for the university,” according to CSU’s Q&A page. “There will be opportunities for joint application for federal and state grants. There will also be immense economic savings from not having to pay for emergency services that will only increase as the University grows.”