There are two important questions I can’t get answered about The Great American Tower, AKA Queen City Square, AKA the Tiara Building on East Fourth St.
Question #1 (just in case you haven’t been paying attention) Does Western & Southern retain any equity ownership in the building even though the Port Authority is listed as the owner?
This is particularly important in light of the fact that less than two years after completion, our tallest skyscraper is on the market to be sold at a profit. We should know where those profits would go if and when a sale were to take place. Will they help fund the future salaries of the Port Authority. a development arm of city government? How much will go to the for-profit developer that has already been paid a development fee, pays no property taxes, didn’t pay any sales taxes on the materials or services to build the building, leased the space to tenants who were already located in the central business district and receives a substantial fee for managing the building. As of yesterday I have made an Ohio Public Records request for all documents related to the project including emails and correspondence. Whereas my previous dealings were with an associate, my requests have now been reassigned to senior staff and nobody at the Port Authority is very happy with me.
Question #2: The agreement the developer signed with the city states that 25% of the payments they make in lieu of property tax will go to the Cincinnati Public Schools to help educate our city’s children. If you check your own property tax bill you will see that the standard percentage that goes to the schools is around 65%, but the school system has agreed to take a lesser amount on these big development projects. The remaining 75% of payments go to pay down debt on the building.
The Auditor’s site states that the property owner paid a total of $7,500,324 in lieu of property taxes over the last 12 months. According to my calculations 25% of that amount is $1,875,081 or 2 semi-annual payments of $937,540.50 and yet – according to the Auditor – only $21, 106.03 was paid to the schools – a discrepancy of $916,434.47. (and this is just for one payment – I hope we don’t have to multiple this by 30 years)
This project was built in 2 parts – and records for 303 Broadway are consistent. Semi annual payment is $501,849. 25% of that amount is $125,462.25. And the Auditor shows $2,205.16 going to the schools.
For a single payment period – according to the Hamilton County Auditor – the Cincinnati Public Schools are missing a grand total of $1,041,896.70.
So far I have asked: Dusty Rhodes, his chief of administration, the Treasurer of the Cincinnati Public Schools, the superintendent, and the staffs of several members of City Council. It could just be a mistake (due to the fact that the Master Lessee was not required to start paying back any money until the middle of 2013). But nobody can answer my question. After several months I feel like I must be a little bit crazy – because it doesn’t seem to bother anybody else. Like I’m just being picky.
A million here, a million there – pretty soon it adds up to real money that could help a lot of kids and you’d think the city might be somewhat curious as to where all that money has been going.