Cleveland School Board Votes Tuesday on NuCLEus Tax Deal

NuCLEus architectural rendering [Stark Enterprises]
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Stark Enterprises -- the developer of the NuCLEus project in the Gateway district -- wants to pay Cleveland schools $18 million up front.  In exchange, Cleveland schools will forego 30 years’-worth of property tax payments amounting to an estimated $121 million. 

The district says the $18 million would go toward construction projects and the state could add another $38 million to the pot.

The school district held a series of public meetings to discuss the proposal and solicited public opinion on its website.  About 58% of responses have been in favor of the tax deal.  About 40% are opposed.  

The school board – made up of nine members appointed by the mayor -- will vote on the proposal but city council has the final say.

“We know the city’s interested in the project,” says Cleveland Metropolitan Schools CEO Eric Gordon.  “We have had city council members attend and offer their individual opinion but we have not had a collective discussion with the city or with the mayor. You know, while we are an appointed board, we do work very hard to run as independent organizations.”

Gordon says this isn’t the first developer to ask for a tax advantage and he expects it won’t be the last.

“Other developers have asked for abatements or have asked for tax deals – PILOTS (Payments In Lieu of Taxes), they’re called – where they pay a fee instead of taxes. So that is part of being a school district in a city. And our board does have to carefully weigh these.”

Gordon himself is not taking a position on the proposal.  

Stark Enterprises says the NuCLEus project won’t go forward if the tax deal isn’t approved. The school district currently collects $360,000 in taxes annually on the parking lot where the project would be built.  

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