GE's multimillion-dollar tax abatement deal goes to final vote this week

Decision to bring EPISCenter to Dayton will be on Wednesday.

School board members Yvonne Isaacs, Stacy Thompson and William Schooler voted against the 30-year tax increment financing plan Tuesday.

“Three years out, we’re going to go to this community and ask for a levy, and (now) we’re going to give away $6 million to a private institution and a nonprofit, and then say to this community, we did the best thing for you by giving away all our rights,” Schooler said.

General Electric hopes to operate its EPISCenter — developing power systems for aircraft, ships and cars — on a five-acre property owned by a University of Dayton subsidiary and located near the Dayton Marriott.

To entice GE to pick Dayton over sites in Beavercreek and Vandalia, the city created a TIF plan — tax increment financing — to forgive all property taxes against the estimated $19.2 million facility for 15 years, then split the property taxes evenly between the city and Dayton Public Schools for the next 15 years.

Dayton Public Schools is by far the largest recipient of normal property taxes levied in the city, and so has the most to lose financially.

GE and the schools hope to partner on a plan to boost science and math skills in DPS students, but have wrangled over details.

“I simply cannot see any measurable benefits even remotely competitive with the costs of this deal,” Thompson said. “We’re being asked to ... sign off on an ordinance sacrificing millions, and I couldn’t get the promise of a tutoring program in writing.”

Schooler said before Tuesday’s vote that the school board should have voted down the TIF, arguing that GE would have built its facility anyway, with Dayton schools getting more tax revenue. DPS treasurer Stan Lucas quickly said GE might not build the facility at all if the TIF fell through.

GE spokeswoman Jennifer Villarreal said Friday the company “would have been disappointed” if the school board had said no, but hesitated to say what the impact may have been.

“We can’t speculate. ... We would need to review alternate plans and look at all options to see if we could move the project forward (without the TIF vote),” she said.

Lucas told school board members the district would be sacrificing $373,000 in property taxes for each of the first 15 years of the proposed TIF, then would receive $320,000 for each of the second 15 years. Lucas said those were city of Dayton estimates based on DPS getting 60 percent of standard property tax collections.

But a Dayton Daily News analysis, confirmed by Montgomery County auditor’s office officials, shows DPS currently receives more than 65 percent of commercial property tax collections, meaning the schools would be giving up almost $406,000 each of the first 15 years, and would receive about $311,000 annually in the second 15 years under current distribution rates.

Via the TIF agreement, the schools also waived any right to income tax sharing, which under TIF law can split income tax revenue in half between the city and the schools once a TIF project generates annual payroll of $1 million.

“A child beginning kindergarten this fall would be almost ready to graduate from college before we see one dollar,” Isaacs said. She asked the school board to delay Tuesday’s vote, saying board members had no chance to review the documents with an attorney.

But school board member Ron Lee said the GE project should not be about trying to gain money for the school district.

“The TIF was not designed to enhance the district. It was designed to bring GE to town,” Lee said. “We had nothing in it in the beginning, and if you turn it down, we’ll have nothing in it in the end. This city has been decimated by (business losses). ... This is an opportunity to grow in many ways.”

This is far from the first TIF project in Dayton or Montgomery County, as everything from the Austin Road area, a Kettering Meijer store and Dayton’s Tech Town project have tax increment financing agreements. State Department of Development documents show 42 active TIF agreements from 16 different jurisdictions in Montgomery County, including six TIFs in Dayton.

UD has declined to comment on the TIF agreement until it is finalized.

Dayton City Commission seems likely to approve the TIF agreement Wednesday, having voted 5-0 last week to convey the land to UD’s limited liability company. Mayor Gary Leitzell said if Dayton hadn’t landed the project, another jurisdiction would have financed it.

Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2278 or jkelley@Dayton