By John Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer
WEST CHESTER TWP. - After making sure the township has money for a community center, preserving an old barn and improving roads, trustees plan to give Lakota Schools a slice of the Union Centre tax district pie.
Not one penny from the 1990 Union Centre Boulevard tax-increment finance district has gone to the schools, because the agreement with property owners predated a 1994 state law requiring schools to get part of the funds.
But trustees this week said they want to give Lakota $5.7 million over 30 years - or about $190,000 annually beginning in 2006 - from anticipated increased property values on 175 undeveloped acres along Union Centre Boulevard, West Chester Road and Muhlhauser Road.
It was carved from the 1,200-acre district which funded the Union Centre interchange that opened in 1997, and would pay for construction of the $33 million community and recreation center.
Some community center opponents have criticized trustees for not giving Lakota any funds from the growing economic center.
"They had to do something, because we were making them look bad," said Don Carpenter, a township insurance agent who wrote the "Schools or Pools?" handbill distributed this week.
However, Lakota Treasurer Alan Hutchinson said trustees discussed giving part of the special Union Centre tax district funds to the schools a year ago.
Lakota, the state's eighth-largest school district, reduced spending by more than $7 million from its $133 million budget since a March levy failure. The board has cut 29 teaching positions for fall, while expecting 375 new students.
"I know $190,000 sounds like a drop in the ocean in respect to our budget, but it will help us hire a few teaching positions," Hutchinson said.
Trustees said anticipated increased taxes - the tax increment - from the original Union Centre tax district will also pay for $7.8 million in road improvements near the interchange, converting the 1881 Muhlhauser barn into a Beckett Park cultural/banquet center, plus the new community center.
The township also may have enough left for a public library branch in Union Centre, said Catherine Stoker, trustees president.
"We'll have funds left over ... so we could funnel some of the money into the schools," she said. "In 1990, we didn't know if we'd get enough money even to do the Union Centre Boulevard interchange."
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