Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Patchwork Community

As we help Dr. Marschhausen prepare to join the Hilliard Schools team, it occurs to me that there are some pretty obscure yet highly-impactful political and economic arrangements which we need to help him understand. I don't think any other region in Ohio is quite like ours in this regard.

I've been writing about many of these political forces for years, and have always struggled with trying to condense all the information to an 'elevator pitch' (ie - what do you say when you find yourself alone in an elevator for 30 seconds with someone who can have a big impact on your life?). Dr. Marschhauser has many things to absorb about our school district and community, and we owe it to him to make the process as concise as possible.

I'm one of those who grasps information more quickly from images than I do words. So why not try to describe these relationships in an image?  Here goes:
click to enlarge
In words, it would go like this:
  • All of the City of Hilliard is in the Hilliard City School District, but not all of the Hilliard City School District is in the City of Hilliard
  • Parts of the City of Columbus and Other Suburbs and Townships are in the Hilliard City School District
  • Parts of the City of Columbus and Other Suburbs and Townships are in the Columbus City School district
  • Parts of the City of Columbus and Other Suburbs and Townships are in Other School Districts
  • The Big Darby Accord encompasses an area which is part of Hilliard City Schools, part of the City of Hilliard, part of Other School Districts (South Western), and all or part of several Other Suburbs and Townships
  • Other Suburbs and Townships are served by Other School Districts
While the key contractual relationships are:
  • The Water/Sewer Services agreements with the City of Columbus, which control which Township parcels a Suburb can annex and be provided water/sewer services. The City of Columbus has long used their control of the regional water/sewer system to limit how the suburbs expand, and to preserve "annexation corridors" between the suburbs.
  • The Win-Win Agreement with the Columbus City Schools, which controls how school district assignments are made following an annexation. Although the Win-Win Agreement is between Columbus City Schools and most - but not all - of the suburban school district, this agreement was in reality forged to put an end to the battle between Columbus City Schools, which was trying to preserve its student population and revenue sources, and the developers who were trying to profit from the "White Flight" generated by the busing program ordered by the Federal court to eliminate racial discrimination in Columbus City Schools.
The connection between those two agreements are:
  • When a parcel currently in a suburban school district is annexed into a suburb, which can happen only if the water/sewer agreement allows it, that parcel will continue to be served by the suburban school district.
  • When a parcel currently in a suburban school district is annexed into the City of Columbus, it will be transferred to Columbus City Schools.
So where does the Big Darby Accord fit into this?

In my opinion, the most significant element of the Big Darby Accord is a radical policy change on the part of the City of Columbus - that it will allow water/sewer services to be extended into unincorporated townships, ending their ironclad policy of providing water/sewer service only to parcels annexed into a city.

This opens the tens of thousands of acres of undeveloped farmland along the Big Darby Creek to residential development, and will allow it to stay in the two suburban school districts - Hilliard City Schools and South Western City Schools - exactly what the developers want.

We haven't had to deal with the economic effects of rapid residential growth for about a decade. The primary effect is that new houses don't generate enough new property tax revenue to fund the cost of the additional kids they'll bring to the school district. 

For example, it is my estimate (ie - not an official estimate by the Treasurer), that the new Hilliard Preserve development just approved by the Hilliard City Council will create the need for the rest of us to allocate at least 1 mill of property taxes to subsidize the cost of the new students coming from that development.

That means either voting to tax ourselves additional millage, or reduce spending on other programs and services.

Remember, the School District doesn't control development policy - the cities do. I've never understood why they're so eager to annex land to enable more houses to be built when it's not a beneficial thing for either entity. Who is reaping the benefits, other than the developers?


  1. Paul, it is beneficial to the cities when you consider the income tax side of the equation. (Potentially, at least.)

    But I suspect those developers, along with the Real Estate industry, are probably bankrolling our politicians...

    1. Nope, we've had this conversation before: cities collect income taxes from those who work in the city, not those who live in the city. A residence is a financial burden to the city, just as it is to the school district.

      Hilliard's own planning documents say that for every new residence which gets built, they need to bring in 3-4 new jobs paying about $40,000/yr in order to fund the services consumed.

      So what do you mean by "bankrolling our politicians"?

    2. If Hilliard is growing the number of businesses, and poaching others (Verizon) from nearby (Dublin), providing those people a place to live near work is beneficial to both the employees and the employers. They're bringing what, 1200? from Verizon; that funds how many houses?

      As for bankrolling, I refer to campaign contributions...

    3. Those Verizon Wireless folks are currently working in buildings one exit up I-270, so I doubt that any of them will move because of it. I wonder who will get my old office?

      There is an argument that a livable community includes places to work, places to live, and places to spend retail dollars. We're doing fine with the latter two, but neither general much in the way of income for the city nor the schools.

      I'm never said that I'm anti-development, only that residential development needs to be metered at the same pace as commercial development.

      The Hilliard city leaders like to say that they've curtailed residential development, and offer as evidence the low number of home building permits issued since 2008, as though the recession never happened.

      And of course, as the economy recovers and low interest rates spur demand for new homes again, the City is all to eager to accept annexation requests from developers who want to build hundreds of new dwellings.

  2. Brilliant diagram, Paul. It helps spotlight how ridiculous this is. Personally, I think this complexity creates a fertile playground for politicians, because if reality is too difficult for most citizens to understand, they're at the mercy of politicians' rhetoric. Yeah, I know that's a "glass-half-empty" point of view, but that's about the only one I can come up with that makes any sense at all. As always, thanks for the illumination.

  3. I was reminded by a tweet from Libby Gierach that April 8 is the deadline to be registered if you want to vote in the May 7 primary election.

    For those of you who live in the City of Hilliard (I don't), four seats on the Hilliard City Council are up for grabs. The Democrats are running no candidates in this race, so the four winners of the Republican primary will be the presumed winners of the General Election in November as well (barring the unlikely election of a write-in candidate).

    The candidates are Tom Baker, Marc Barraco, Les Carrier, Brian Katz, Kelly McGivern and Bill Uttley. Only McGivern is an elected incumbent. Baker was just appointed to fill the seat vacated by Stephanie Kunze, who was elected to the Ohio House in November. Uttley served on City Council for 12 years, but was defeated in his bid for re-election in 2011, when Nathan Painter, Joe Erb and Al Iosue won the Primary.

    Hilliard has a seven person City Council, meaning this election will seat a majority of the members. If you're not a fan of the residential development policies of the City of Hilliard, this is your chance to do something about it.