After rejecting our 650 word anti-Sinclair levy op-ed piece, with
“I think there are some good points you make, but there are just as many points that seem unsubstantiated and yet stated as fact. Overall, it doesn’t feel like a guest column of this length to me. I’d be OK with it as a shorter letter to the editor, in the 180-200 word range. If you want to resubmit in that form, I’d need it back pretty quickly to run in the early part of next week.”
We sort of knew our points wouldn’t make it into the Sinclair Daily News. They’ve run at least a half a dozen pro-Sinclair articles on the front page in the last few weeks.
Today, they managed to point out that only 6 of 23 community colleges get any tax levy- never mind 2 levies. However, they still refuse to acknowledge that Sinclair isn’t honest when they say no Montgomery County money is spent outside Montgomery County.
At least KeepSinclairFair.org got a mention- but, because we’ve raised less than $1,000 and aren’t spending it on Cox’s TV stations, radio, or newspaper- we’re not worthy of coverage.
But in Ohio, it’s not all that unusual. According to the Ohio Department of Higher Education, six of the 23 community colleges in the state augment their tuition revenue with property tax levies.
Sinclair is one of them, and it is asking voters on Nov. 3 to support a 1-mill levy that the school says will allow it to ramp up its health and manufacturing programs. It is the only countywide levy in Montgomery County, and would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $35 a year.
That’s in addition to the $98 those homeowners already pay for Sinclair’s 3.2-mill levy, which passed in 2008.
Sinclair President Steven Johnson said the new money would be used to build a health center, which would house its nearly 40 health science programs and be equipped with the “latest” simulation labs and clinics. The center would be built on a parking lot between 4th and 5th streets, and attached to the Sifferlin Center.
“In order to have enough trained health care workers, and people to work in manufacturing, we need to increase capacity and we need to do it faster,” Johnson said.
The levy, which would raise about $8.5 million, would also help the school prepare students to address the “skills gap” that employers point to as a barrier to growing jobs in the region, said Johnson.“Sinclair has tremendous momentum going in workforce and job training programs like UAS, health science careers, advanced manufacturing, IT and first responders,” he said.
Maybe this is why Sinclair has received over $130,000 for their campaign from our duopoly health care system- who don’t have to pay property taxes.
But to people like Meyers, another levy request is too much to ask, particularly for those on fixed incomes.“And next year there isn’t a Social Security increase,” he said.
Meyers said if local businesses are “begging for employees” they should carry more of the burden for Sinclair’s job training programs.“
I got grandkids in the area, and I’m all for education,” he said. “But what if they want to go to another school?”
Supporters know any levy is a tough sell in a county that already has its share of levies. Montgomery County property owners, because of those levies, have the second highest property tax burden in Ohio.
Finally- our point makes it into the discussion. Remember, Warren County is the “fastest growing county” in the state- and now has a Sinclair campus- without a tax burden. We’ve all paid for 49 years- and Warren County residents only have to pay for Sinclair if they go to Sinclair- novel idea.
With just nine days until Election Day, Citizens for Sinclair — the group pushing Issue 13 — is out in full force, from taking to the airwaves to handing out yard signs and announcing endorsements.
Johnson remains confident, but he says the outcome will depend on turnout.
To ensure they get that turnout, Citizens for Sinclair has spent slightly more than $450,000 during the most recent reporting period, and has about $263,000 on hand.
More ads are planned for the campaign’s final days.
Johnson said a big selling point for the school is its value to local students.
No mention of Sinclair’s 11% graduation rate. Value? Really?
Some voters have questioned why Sinclair isn’t asking voters in Warren County — where the school opened a campus in 2007 — to pony up.
But, said Johnson, “By law, we keep it here. And it’s spent on our (Montgomery County) students.
”Sinclair officials point out that Montgomery County students pay $99 per credit hour, while students from other Ohio counties pay an additional $50 per credit hour.Currently, Sinclair pulls in slightly more than $27 million each year from property taxes.
No, this is a flat out lie. Montgomery County Students pay $99 per credit hour, plus, all of us pay based on our property value, pay for their tuition.
In Warren County- only the students who go pay.
Sinclair officials say the community college doesn’t have debt and its financial outlook is solid.
“We’ve only bought and paid for things we could afford,” Johnson said.
No, they could only buy and pay for things we pay for. And any alternative funding sources, such as issuing bonds, which is how every other state school finances capital improvements, is ignored. Which, considering the record low interest rates, borders on criminal negligence on the part of Sinclair in showing shrewd financial decisions in our best interest.
However, the school says it has faced its share of financial hurdles, including lower-than-expected levy funds as a result of falling property values.
In 2016, the college is expected to receive $700,000 less from property taxes than it did in the most recent fiscal year.
That’s one reason the college’s revenue is projected to fall by $3 million to $124.2 million from fiscal year 2015 to 2016.
Meanwhile, its 2016 expenses are expected to drop by $4.2 million, to $121.4 million.
No analysis has been provided of the growth of highly paid administrators and cuts to tenured faculty positions under Johnson. There has also been a declining enrollment in recent years, which isn’t being reported. Is it because the focus on pie-in-the-sky programs like model airplane pilots instead of truck driving programs like those offered by other community colleges- where there are real, open jobs waiting?
Aside from levy funding, the college will rely mostly on state appropriations and tuition to cover 2016 expenses. Those revenue sources also have dipped.The new levy would run for eight years. In 2017 or 2018, the college will move to renew its 2008 levy, and after that— if the new levy passes— the college would have a levy on the ballot every five years.
Sinclair says having two levies could keep the institution’s finances secure, in case one were to fail. That’s not an uncommon levy strategy. In fact, the Montgomery County Human Services levies have a similar setup.“One of things that we would like to do is not have all of our eggs in one basket, and have balanced levies and spread the risk,” Johnson said last month.
Grant Neeley, associate professor and interim chair of political science at the University of Dayton, says Sinclair and other institutions that have two levies run the risk of confusing voters.
“I think levies are confusing for most people anyway,” Neeley said.He added that it’s also possible the increase in levies could cause voter fatigue.
Earlier this month, more than a dozen local officials gathered in the Kettering Tower to announce their support for the
Sinclair levy. The gathering included politicians on both sides of the aisle.
“We don’t agree on much, but we need to educate our future leaders,” said Sheriff Phil Plummer, the chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party.
The levy doesn’t have much organized opposition, aside from keepsinclairfair.org — a webpage that has raised less than a $1,000.
Amazing, we finally get mentioned.
The community college has had a great track record with passing levies. The school passed its first levy in 1966, and has passed each renewal since.
Johnson says that’s because Sinclair has had a good relationship with the county during its 128-year existence. In addition, Johnson said those levy funds helped the school build technical programs that rival the best community colleges in the country.
He said if the levy fails Sinclair won’t be able to expand its offerings and “we will be facing (job) shortages in some key areas.”
Local hospitals are among the levy’s biggest backers. Of the $247,220 raised by Citizens for Sinclair from July 1 through October 14, $130,000 came from the Kettering Health Network and Premier Health Partners.
“We have more employees of our hospitals, of our 33,000 employees at 28 hospitals, that come from Sinclair than any other educational institution,” said Bryan Bucklew, president and CEO of the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association.
Bucklew says his organization provides Sinclair with a vacancy report, so the community college knows what areas are in highest demand.
“This ranges from IT to medical technicians, surgeon technicians, phlebotomist,” he said. “Those certificate and associates degree programs at Sinclair provide for great quality training and great quality employees.”
We still could put donations to good use- buying ads on social media to explain that voting no on Sinclair levies until they tax the other counties, is what would really “Keep Sinclair Strong.”
We won’t waste your money on TV ads, convincing you that while other counties grow like crazy, we keep being asked to tax ourselves into the ground, to support Premier and Kettering Health Networks job training programs.