Tuesday, May 15, 2001

County OKs school funding

CPS gets $4.9 million a year in stadium deal

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Hamilton County commissioners approved a deal Monday that will send $4.9 million annually to Cincinnati Public Schools for the next 20 years.

        The money fulfills a 1996 commitment, made during the campaign to raise the countywide sales tax by a half-penny on the dollar to build two sports stadiums.

        The payments are in lieu of taxes that would have been paid on the new riverfront football facility and parking. Instead of paying taxes, the county will pay the schools directly in two installments each year.

        A similar agreement will be reached when Great American Ball Park opens in 2003.

        As part of the Paul Brown Stadium deal, county and school officials agreed to set the value of the stadium and parking structures at $382.1 million.

        The Cincinnati Public Schools Board of Education will likely approve the agreement and authorize the sale of bonds Monday at its board meeting, district spokeswoman Jan Leslie said.

        It was important to reach the agreement now — a year before the first payment is made — so Cincinnati Public Schools can issue bonds this summer for its facilities improvement program.

        “This will define the payments and that's what the investment community is looking for,” CPS Treasurer Mike Geoghegan said. “We'll be able to issue our bonds and, hopefully, get a better rating because of that certainty. We need to issue the bonds now.”

        The bonds will be issued based upon the county's payment and the $5 million CPS receives annually from the city of Cincinnati. The bond issue financed by the yearly $9.9 million payments from the county and the city will finance $126 million in projects and improvements, school officials said.

        The schools can use the money only for capital improvements, such as repairing older schools, building schools and infrastructure work. It will not be used for operating funds, which were the subject of a special levy in the November election.

        A portion of the bonds will go toward a $13 million note that comes due this summer, Mr. Geoghegan said.

        Carl Stich, a chief assistant prosecuting attorney, said signing the agreement a year ahead helps the county, too.

        “The county benefits in knowing the amount and duration of the payments,” Mr. Stich said.

        Commissioner Tom Neyer happily approved the agreement. “This helps the schools know the cards they have in their hand as they move forward,” he said.

        The county will not pay taxes on either stadium. Instead, it will pour the taxes that would have been paid on those structures directly into CPS' coffers.

        Jennifer Mrozowski contributed to this report.


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