The Columbus Board of Education Tuesday approved a tax abatement proposal from a for-profit subsidiary of Nationwide Children's Hospital -- and will offer a local charter network a lease on a dilapidated property "as-is".
Alison Holm has details.
When representatives of Nationwide Children’s Hospital approached the school board in January for their approval of a tax abatement for a new, for-profit subsidiary, they highlighted the work the hospital already does in the district, including in-school primary and behavioral clinics, asthma therapy and mentoring, and they suggested that the hospital may be able to do more in the future.
Michael Johnson, one of a handful people who spoke at the board meeting this week about the abatement said he finds it ironic that an organization dedicated to the health of children would try to withhold money from neighborhood schools.
“According to the 2019 Cupp Report, 100% of the children in Columbus Public Schools [sic] are considered disadvantaged. And the median income is $31,000 for families here. Nationwide points to the hospital’s commitment to resources to the school district. I would submit that they should commit these resources without strings attached, because they live in this urban community.”
The 100% abatement for Andelyn Biosciences amounts to over $19 million over it’s 15-year term. But board member Eric Brown took exception to the portrayal of the abatement as a giveaway, noting that without it the facility might not be built, and the district would miss out on its share of the income tax generated by employees.
“They’re dollars we would have never seen otherwise. It’s not taking anything away, but it’s adding dollars to what we’re getting, as well as providing very valuable other resources for our kids and for the benefit of the school district.”
Michael Aaron of the Driving Park Business Association had asked the board last week to delay approving the abatement until Nationwide Childrens’ made a commitment to also invest in the neighborhood. He says his group was able to hold productive conversations with the hospital – and that all communities should be more involved in abatement conversations.
“If any business wants a tax abatement, if they are being located in your community there has to be a benefit for the people who live there. Not just for the business, but a direct benefit for the people that live around that business. Support the civic association, business association, non –profits – something. Support the neighborhoods directly. And Nationwide Childrens Hospital has agreed to do so.”
Aaron says the hospital has agreed to support the community’s push for a neighborhood commercial revitalization designation for the Livingston Avenue area. His group withdrew their request. And the board approved the 100%, 15-year tax abatement for Andelyn Biosciences unanimously. The abatement proposal will go before Columbus City Council later this month.
The board also voted to offer a five year lease of the former Monroe Middle School to a local charter school network, but in as-is condition. The building on Monroe Avenue closed in 2015 and according to a 2019 appraisal is in poor shape, but the lease specifies the tenant would be responsible for work needed to reopen.
Last month, the founder of the United Schools Network, which operates three schools in former district buildings, accused officials of illegally blocking his interest in Monroe. State law requires districts to offer charter schools any facility that has been closed for more than a year for sale or lease, although it is not unusual for shuttered property to languish for years.
The districts’ 2016 master plan called for the Near East side property to become the future home of the Columbus Preparatory School for Boys, but the board acknowledge Tuesday that plan will likely not move forward for at least five years. A district spokesperson says the 5-year lease would cost over $46,000 per year, and could be terminated by either side with 12-months notice.