By: Chris Zimmer – Columnist, Senior
**Editor’s note: Links to the columnist’s sources have been added, but were not included in the original version of this story. They have been added because Flyer News, even in opinions, aims to be as transparent as possible to its readership.
I’ve enjoyed getting back into the habit of running and biking since spraining my ankle in early September. It’s not just exercise: It allows me to get off campus and explore Dayton and the surrounding cities of Kettering and Oakwood, to get out of the Brown/Stewart Street bubble. While this November’s election has been dominated by the statewide issues debating marijuana legalization (Issue 3), protecting the initiative process from being used for personal economic benefit (Issue 2) or drawing state legislative districts through a bipartisan redistricting commission (Issue 1), I haven’t seen one yard sign supporting those issues on my little exercising adventures. Instead, there is one campaign sign I always see: support for Issue 13.
After watching a few commercials on TV, I concluded this issue is, generally, the public funding for Sinclair Community College. I thought, “OK. This is probably a good thing. Sinclair probably doesn’t have as many generous alumni like the University of Dayton or Ohio State. I’ll probably vote for that.” However, after doing a little research, I realized it wasn’t about funding an under-funded school. It’s an unfair tax increase to the residents of Montgomery County.
Here’s what the ballot actually says:
13 Proposed Tax Levy (Additional) Sinclair Community College District
*majority affirmative vote is necessary for passage
“An additional tax for the benefit of the Sinclair Community College District for the purposes of EXPANDING JOB TRAINING AND EDUCATIONAL SERVICES IN HEALTH SCIENCES, TECHNOLOGIES AND OTHER CAREER FIELDS, MAKING PROPERTY IMPROVEMENTS, AND PAYING OPERATING COSTS, at a rate not exceeding 1mill for each one dollar of valuation, which amounts to $0.10 for each one hundred dollars of valuation for a period of 8 years, commencing in 2015, first due in calendar year 2016.”
Here are three reasons to vote “no” on Issue 13 Tuesday:
1. It’s disproportionately unfair to the residents of Montgomery County. Citizens in this county already have the second highest tax burden in the state of Ohio and, to begin with, pay $3.2 million a year in taxes to support Sinclair Community College on a yearly basis. This levy would raise it to $4.2 million. So, for instance, if you own a $100,000 home, you’re going to be paying $147 for 8 years to Sinclair. (You can do the math if you own a nicer home). The problem is Sinclair has campuses outside of Montgomery County, for which they collect no tax revenue. Even though Warren County has the Courseview Campus, Preble County has Learning Center, and Greene County has a site on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. They don’t pay jack. This tax levy wouldn’t be a big deal if other counties who reaped the benefits of Sinclair paid their fair share.
2. We don’t know if we’ll really benefit from this tax levy. Sinclair’s top donors to the campaign included the No. 2 employer in the city, Premier Health Partners (who gave $100,000) and the third-top employer, Kettering Health Network (who gave $30,000). It’s also worth noting the University of Dayton and Montgomery County Human Services Levy each donated $10,000, Sinclair’s President Steven Johnson, Ph.D., donated $5,000 and two local marketing/advertising strategy firms $8,000.
I understand roughly 40-50 percent of Sinclair’s health science students are employed through Premier Health Partners and Kettering Health Network hospitals. I also understand there are plenty of Sinclair students who transfer to UD. However, I think we can make an assumption that “OPERATING COSTS” could simply read “SALARY INCREASE” for those who work for the community college. At the end of the day, we really don’t know where our tax dollars are going to go.
3. Sinclair Community College doesn’t need the money. Believe it or not, Sinclair has $50 million in the bank and owe $0 in debt—yet they want more public funds. While I commend the school for not being in the hole, it seems its leaders don’t have the guts to take a risk and invest its assets. Sinclair isn’t trying to grow and expand by making strategic financial investments. They’re putting the burden on the hard-working citizens of the Miami Valley, who already get taxed enough.