Yesterday I tried to use my new spreadsheet skills to create a bar chart to show the difference between what Great American Tower actually pays to city and county government from their $3,664,654 semi-annual property-tax payment and what they would have paid if the project were not subsidized by taxpayers.
As you can see, my chart is kind of a joke. Using a normal scale, the amount the building contributes is so minuscule, you can’t even see their little drops in the bucket. So I asked one of my behind-the-scenes advisers if he could help me with something that made a little more sense and he used a logarithmic scale to take into account the large range in quantities.
Now you can at least see what Great American Tower contributed to the public coffers in January and the numbers are accurate if you pay very close attention to what the scale on the vertical axis is trying to communicate.
But it still doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t do justice to the reality of how we raped our community for the sake of another giant skyscraper on our skyline, how out of proportion the numbers are in relation to the human lives we impacted.
This is the math on PART of the Great American Building, the part on E. Fourth valued at $232,125,850 (this does not include the part of the building that fronts Broadway):
Cincinnati Public Schools: $21,023 vs. $1,998,349
Let me repeat that again, because this is the number that makes me want to cry. The Auditor shows that Cincinnati Public Schools got $21,023 for this payment period. Standard distribution for other commercial properties in the Central Business District would have been $1,998,349. According to the agreement signed with CPS in 1997, they should get 25% of the payment to the Tax Increment Financing District or $894,196 – but even though I have contacted city accounting, the auditor’s office, the former treasurer of the Cincinnati Public Schools, sent an email to the Superintendent and met with the current president of the School Board – NOBODY can explain this discrepancy. Nor do they seem to care, at least not enough to ask any further questions. It’s as though I am bothering them.
County General Fund: $828 vs. $78,689
Public Library: $366 vs. $34,694
Family Services: $124 vs. $1,180
Hospital Care for the Indigent: $992 vs. $94,355
Mental Health: $849 vs. $17,414
Developmental Disabilities: $1,513 vs. $174,446
Parks: $377 vs. $35,367
Crime Info Center: $110 vs. $1,037
Children’s Services: $982 vs. $92,318
Zoo: $163 vs. $15,487
Senior Services: $460 vs. $43,636
Total: $27,787 vs $2,588,072
The city would have received the rest of the money from their payment, $988,713 we could have had for basic services like police and fire, picking up trash and filling potholes.
These are the numbers for one SIX MONTH tax period on a PART of this Tax Increment Financing Project. I refuse to estimate the cost for the entire 30-34 years on both buildings as it would make me puke.
This was not a subsidy we underwrote in order to bring new jobs to Cincinnati, jobs that might generate additional income tax revenue someday. The vast majority of the space was leased by companies moving out of other buildings in the Central Business District, buildings that then experienced a precipitous decline in their valuations and the property tax revenue generated by those parcels. Instead of going to services crucial to the long-term health of our community, this money now goes to pay down the debt on a 41-story office tower, subsidizing the rents of corporations so that they can enjoy an upgrade in facilities at a lower cost.
These property-tax levies are the heart of our community. Literally. We voted on them. We decided our children, our old people, our libraries and parks and mental health services are important to the kind of city where we want to live. But citizens have never been given the chance to vote on Tax Increment Financing projects and whether or not they are worth it.
Before City Council votes on the next 30-year property tax deal, I hope we all get out our pencils and do the numbers on what these agreements really cost the citizens of Cincinnati.