Sinclair Community College.

Election 2017: Sinclair asks voters to renew $28-million levy

Sinclair Community College is asking Montgomery County voters to continue providing 20 percent of the school’s funding.

Sinclair is seeking the renewal of an operating levy on the November ballot, meaning if Issue 4 passes, it would not raise taxes. The school has never had a levy fail and hopes voters renew the 10-year, 3.2 mill levy that generates around $28 million annually for the college.

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The levy, which is one of two Sinclair gets funding from, costs the owner of a $100,000 home around $98 per year.

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“This is a big deal for us because this is 20 percent of our funding,” president Steve Johnson said. “Sinclair has had a major levy supporting it since the mid 60s.”

The levy up for renewal on Nov. 7 does not expire until the end of 2018 so the community college will have another chance to get it renewed if it were to go down next month.

Sinclair’s 10-year levy allows the school to invest in daily operations of the downtown Dayton campus as well as provide discounted tuition for Montgomery County residents. The discount means Montgomery County students pay just over $99 per credit hour while students from other counties pay around $146 per credit hour.

The discount means Montgomery County residents pay the lowest tuition in the state to attend a community college, Sinclair officials have said. Sinclair is one of six community colleges in the state that receive some funding through a levy, Johnson said.

The money generated by the Montgomery County levy can only be used within the county, according to state law, meaning no levy revenue can be used at Sinclair’s locations in Warren or Greene counties.

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But, a local group led by David Esrati said Montgomery County tax dollars are being used elsewhere.

In response to Issue 4, Esrati started an political action committee called “Reconstructing Dayton” and a website called Keep Sinclair Fair. The website encourages residents to vote against the renewal this fall.

“I’m sure they’re spending Montgomery County tax dollars in other counties. You can’t have a branch campus in Warren County and have all the support…all the things that go along with it,” Esrati said. “That is not covered for $47 extra a credit hour.”

It’s not fair, said Esrati, that Sinclair has locations in neighboring counties but that residents of those counties are not taxed.

He pointed to Sinclair ‘s interest in buying Far Hills Church on Clyo Road as evidence because it sits immediately next to Wilmington Pike, which serves as the Greene County line. Sinclair may convert the 100,000 square-foot church and the 40 acres it sits on into a new learning center for $6 million to $10 million.

RELATED: Kasich: 2-year schools meet workforce needs better than universities

Esrati called for all counties Sinclair has facilities in to be taxed since Montgomery County residents already pay for Sinclair. Sinclair has locations in Preble County, Warren County, a Wright-Patterson Air Force Base location split between Montgomery County and Greene County and a Huber Heights location that serves people from Miami, Montgomery and Greene counties. The location at the Air Force base only serves military personnel.

Levies are not needed in other counties because Sinclair’s operations are substantially smaller than in Montgomery County, Johnson said. Although Sinclair has the authority to put a tax levy on the ballot in Warren County, Johnson said county leaders do not think one is needed right now.

“If at some time the leaders of Warren County want to have a levy…and want to have lower tuition and they want to have more programs and a bigger campus and all that stuff we’d be interested in talking to them about that,” Johnson said. “But, at this point in time, you know, the very small, modest thing that it is, is what it is.”

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