School leaders drive to Columbus for budget help

By Kimberly Holmes – bio | email

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19)  - It's been a full day at summer school for fourth grader Elaina Gonzalez. Her dad William worries summer school may not even be an option next year as school districts look to cut their budgets.

"That's the whole reason why we chose to move to West Chester," said William Gonzalez. "It's so we can get the best quality education for my daughter. Now hearing about this what they're planning to do. It really makes us concerned."

And there's good reason why.

"A lot of things are happening," said Cincinnati Public School Treasurer Jonathan Boyd. "It's going to hurt a lot of school districts. It's going to hurt a lot of children."

Duke Energy is disputing what it owes in property taxes. Company leaders said they want to pay their fair share, but right now, Duke Energy is withholding millions of dollars. Including $20-million that every public school district in Southwestern Ohio is banking on. Cincinnati Public Schools stands to lose $7.8 million.

On Tuesday, CPS leaders drafted a letter to the Governor Ted Strickland, and hand delivered it to his office in Columbus.

"Last week, we contacted a number of districts in the Hamilton County area as well as some districts across the state," said Boyd. "We explained to them what was going on, and asked them if they would consider joining in with us as we prepared a letter to the Governor."

Superintendents and board presidents from 37 other school districts agreed, including: Winton Woods. The district stands to lose $474,000, and like most districts, district leaders said they're not sure where the money is going to come from.

"We've got to find the savings because Duke's already withholding that money," said Winton Woods School Board President Jack Lee.

Winton Woods board members have also sent the Ohio Tax Commissioner Richard Levin a separate letter about the situation.

The Governor's spokesperson Amanda Wurst sent us this statement:

"We are unable to comment on the specific matter because of taxpayer confidentiality laws. The governor's staff has talked with educators and local and state leaders to better understand this situation and we are monitoring it closely. Education is a top priority for Governor Strickland and decreased resources to schools is always a concern. Reconvening the legislature is not under consideration, but local legislators are likely discussing this issue with their colleagues and the legislature may choose to examine these issues. It is important to keep in mind that an independent process is already in place to make sure that all sides are treated fairly."

Local school leaders also tell us they worry about what the outcome of this could mean for school districts and city governments across the state. They said that utility companies from all over Ohio are keeping an eye on this situation and could try to implement the same plan.


Local School District's Letter to Gov. Ted Strickland:

June 29, 2010

The Honorable Ted Strickland

Governor of the State of Ohio

Governor's Office

Riffe Center, 30th Floor

77 South High Street

Columbus, OH 43215-6108

Dear Governor Strickland:

Duke Energy's decision to withhold nearly $20 million in personal property taxes, for six

months, and stated plan to continue to withhold payments beyond the current calendar

year until which time their case has been decided, which will result in the loss of $40

million in tangible taxes per year, has Ohio school districts in crisis. Duke's eleventh

hour notice concerning its decision to appeal the current methodology used to calculate

its property taxes comes after school districts have created a budget for the upcoming

year in a challenging economic environment. By asking for a 40% reduction after Ohio

school districts have completed their budgets, Duke leaves schools reeling to find funds

and cut costs.

Duke's withholdings will have a direct and immediate impact on the education of our

State's children. Ohio schools are placed in a position where they must cut vital and

valuable services provided to their students and/or place additional millages of 1 or more

mills on the ballot this fall in order to certify enough resources for their budgets this year

and possibly next. Schools will be forced to increase class sizes, postpone essential

technology purchases, offer fewer classes, reduce transportation services and cut

programs. Many school districts are already coping with lower revenues and higher

costs. By withholding its taxes, Duke will save costs by taking vital resources away from

our children. Cincinnati Public Schools stands to lose $7.8 million a year as a result of

Duke's withholdings and over 100,000 students from districts all over Southwest Ohio

will be impacted. However, Southwest Ohio schools are not alone. Public schools all

over the State will be devastated by Duke's decision.

In the push for deregulation of Ohio utilities ten years ago by the power companies, Duke

and others operating within the State agreed to abide by the current methodology used to

calculate their property taxes. Now Duke has reneged on this commitment, as it

challenges the methodology it agreed upon, in order to receive the benefits of


The time to act is now. The Governor must call the General Assembly back from

summer recess. The General Assembly must address Duke's withholding of taxes and if

necessary, amend Ohio Revised Code 5727.11 in order to ensure compliance with its

objectives. Ohio Revised Code 5727.11(D)(1) expressly provides that a cost based

methodology is to be used for determining true value. The State of Ohio has to show

Duke that they must comply as they agreed and that they cannot save costs by taking vital

funds away from Ohio schools.


(see attached signatures)

Jack Pierson, Treasurer

Akron Public Schools

Jeff Gruber, Treasurer

Canton City Schools

Eileen Cooper Reed, President

Cincinnati Public School District

Dr. Gene Harris, Superintendent

Columbus City School District

Jeffrey Mims, Jr., Board President

Dayton City School District

Donna Farrell, Board President

Deer Park Community City School District

James Wright, Board President

Finneytown Local School District

Tracy Huebner, Board President

Forest Hills School District

Tony Dunn, Superintendent

Georgetown Exempted Village School District

Ed O'Riley, Superintendent

Grandview Heights City School District

Ken Morrison, Superintendent

Grant Career Center

Mary Tedrow, Board President

Groveport Madison School District

Valerie Browning, Superintendent

Kings Local School District

Jean W. Powell, Board President

Lakota Local School District

Mark Loth, Board President

Licking Heights Local School District

Daniel Bennett, Superintendent

Little Miami Local School District

Terry Gibson, Board President

Lockland Local School District

Kam Misleh, Board President

Maderia City School District

Kenneth R. White, Board President

Mariemont City School District

George Lucas, Board President

Milford Exempted Village School District

Carole M. Ellis, Board President

Mt. Healthy City School District

Gary Gellert, Superintendent

North College Hill City School District

Pam Detzel, Board President

Northwest Local School District

Rick Ahlers, Board President

Oak Hills Local School District

Julie Feasel, Board President

Olentangy Local School District

Dr. Gary Pack, Superintendent

Princeton City School District

Greg Young, Superintendent

Ross Local School District

Donna Picklesimer, Board President

Springfield City School District

Diane Adamec, Board President

Sycamore Community City School District

Dr. Michael Crowder, Board Member

Talawanda School District

Dr. Mary Jane Roberts, Board Member

Talawanda School District

Ms. Bobbie Grice, Board President

Warren County Vocational School District

Patrick Dubbs, Superintendent

Wayne Local School District

Dan Krueger, Board President

West Clermont Local School District

Jack Lee, Board President

Winton Woods City School District

Beth McManus, Board President

Williamsburg Local School District

Jeff Weir, Superintendent

Williamsburg Local School District

Julie Kamphaus, Treasurer

Williamsburg Local School District

Copyright 2010 FOX19. All Rights Reserved.