Tuesday, May 24, 2016

North Canton CRA Property Tax Abatements Undermine Our Schools and Enrich Corporate Interests and Multi-millionaires

Prepared Comments Made to
May 23, 2016

           I would like to recite the children’s story of Chicken Little that we remember from our youth as a learning aid to the current discussion on the proposed expansion of the City’s CRA.

           Chicken Little woke up one morning and went for a walk in the town where she lived. While walking, an acorn from a tall oak tree fell and hit her on the head with a PLUNK!  
“The sky is falling, the sky is falling!” she yelled. “I must run and warn the King!”  
On the way, she ran into Henny Penny. “Chicken Little, what’s wrong?” asked Henny Penny. 
“The sky is falling, the sky is falling! We must run and warn the King!” cried Chicken Little…. 
“I will run with you!” said Henny Penny. So Chicken Little and Henny Penny ran together…. 
[And so on and so on] until Chicken Little, Henny Penny, Goosey Loosey, and Turkey Lurkey all ran together. Soon they ran into Foxy Loxy.  
“You will be safe in my den,” said clever Foxy Loxy. “You can hide in there. I will run and tell the king.” 
So Chicken Little, Henny Penny, Goosey Loosey, and Turkey Lurkey followed Foxy Loxy to his den. They were never seen or heard from again.

          The moral in this story is that when something happens, one should not believe
whatever first comes to one’s mind to be the cause or believe the first possible 
option to be true. 

          The story of Chicken Little teaches us to think before jumping to conclusions. 

          How can this Council conclude that North Canton is so blighted that the sky is falling? Investment in North Canton is not discouraged as the statute requires for the creation of a CRA. 

          The Main Street trailer park that has been described as blighted did not discourage investment in that area. This is evidenced by the fact that O-Reilley Auto Parts and CVS Pharmacy both built on property abutting the trailer park. 

          The property tax abatement given for North Ridge Place, the 40 unit apartment complex built on the former site of the trailer park was unconscionable. The abatement, 100% for fifteen years, amounts to $59,129, in 2015 dollars, per year, will total close to a million dollars over the term of fifteen years. 

          The property may be residential in nature, but it is investment property that will result in the diversion of needed funds to the North Canton City Schools. The North Canton library and several North Canton levies also will not receive the revenue earmarked for them in the distribution of property taxes.

          North Canton’s CRA is an affront to the taxpayers of the City as it is being administered to forgive taxes on properties owned by corporations and multi-millionaires. These individuals and entities are high net worth individuals who can easily absorb the payment of property taxes into their business activities. 

          I have a handout to leave with you that shows the unfortunate stakeholders in the loss of the property taxes you are abating. 

         The North Canton City Schools are the major loser in this expansion of the CRA program. Ordinance 32-2016 will bring riches to the rich, but financial decline to our City Schools. 

         Mr. Griffith, you have repeatedly stated that the schools will realize a boost in revenue when the terms of these abatements run their course. 

         Could you or anyone on this Council live without a raise in salary for the next 10 or 12 or 15 years? That is what you are asking the North Canton City Schools to live with. 

         Do not be a casualty like Chicken Little, Henny Penny, Goosey Loosey, or Turkey Lurkey. 

         The sky is not falling! If North Canton properties are not maintained, there are zoning codes on the books to deal with those issues. 

         You cannot give away the lifeblood of the City as you are doing to get homeowners to maintain their properties. 

Thank you,
Chuck Osborne

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

May 2, 2016 - North Canton Council of the Whole Meeting

North Canton Residents and Anyone Having Interest in the Business of North Canton City Government:

Pasted below is a link to a video of the North Canton Council of the Whole meeting held on Monday, May 2, 2016.

Description of Video: 
May 2, 2016, – North Canton Committee of the Whole Meeting: 
The video covers a North Canton Committee of the Whole meeting lasting just under an hour in length. The meeting is called to order approximately one minute into the video.  
Following roll call, Council President Peters calls for a vote to excuse Councilmember Marcia Kiesling as she was absent. This is Council-member Kiesling’s third meeting absence. Mrs. Kiesling has also failed to attend meetings of Council on February 8, 2016, and on March 7, 2016. 
          The agenda for the Committee of the Whole meeting consisted of the following for legislative action: 
          •         Emergency legislation to increase the salary and vacation allowance for of exempt employees. These are employees who work at the pleasure of either the Mayor or City Council. 
          •         Emergency Resolution authorizing the Mayor to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the North Canton Police Department and the Stark County’s Sheriff’s Office to support the Stark County OVI Task Force. 
          •         A presentation on the City’s response to mitigate impact of flooding from the Zimber Ditch. 
          •         Legislation authorizing expenditure of $3,000 in donated funds for the purchase of trees. 
          1:50 minutes into the video, Council President Peters, as Chairperson of the Personnel and Safety Committee, introduces proposed legislation to increase the salaries and vacation allowances for the City’s exempt employees. The specific positions initially targeted for the increase in compensation levels are depicted in the following table.
          The discussion on the proposed increase in compensation levels ultimately was expanded to include all exempt employees. The Clerk of Council position was clearly one of the additional exempt positions mentioned but there are several other exempt positions in the City. It is my understanding that the two clerks in the Mayor’s office and the Director of Economic Development are exempt employees. 
I might add that any increase in salary would not reflect the added sixteen percent in pension contributions paid on behalf of the employee by the City. For example, an exempt employee making $100,000 annual actually receives $116,000 per year. The extra sixteen thousand dollars is the City’s contribution to that employee’s pension. 
In the Mayor’s State of the City presentation just a week ago, if memory serves me correctly, income tax collections for this year are down from last year.
With City Council’s plans to expand the City’s Community Reinvestment Areas (CRAs) thus increasing the number of tax abatements going to Corporations and multi-millionaires, one has to wonder how the City is going to survive financially.  
The proposed increases in compensation levels to employees who work at the pleasure of either the Mayor or City Council was the significant topic of the meeting. 
I might add that there was no mention of the nearly forty-four percent raise in the cards for North Canton Law Director Tim Fox. And I might add that Mr. Fox did not utter a word the entire night. Perhaps he did not want to bring any attention to his proposed hefty raise. 
16:20 minutes into the video, Chairperson Peters discusses the proposed Emergency Resolution noted earlier. 
17:25 minutes into the video, Ward 4 Councilperson, as Chairperson of Street and Alley makes a presentation an update to Council on the Zimber Ditch and the City’s flood mitigation efforts. Mr. Fonte concludes his presentation at 43:25 minutes. 
43:25 minutes into the video, Chairperson Dan Griffith discusses his proposal to authorize expenditure of $3,000 of donated funds for the purchase of ornamental trees. 
44:50 minutes into the video, Council President Peters asks to amend the agenda to allow Councilmember Cerreta to propose that the Dogwood tree serve as North Canton's official City tree. Mr. Cerreta made this proposal in anticipation of the upcoming 3rd Reading next week to remove the North Canton tagline as “The Dogwood City” given that there was some citizen opposition to removing the "Dogwood City” tagline. 
47:20 minutes into the video, Chairman Peters again amended the agenda to allow Councilmember Foltz to update Council on Park and Recreation issues. 
57:20 minutes into the video, the Council meeting was concluded. 

The video ends at the one hour mark (1:00 minutes). 
Thank you,
Chuck Osborne