Clearing up annexation misconceptions

By Brent Merriman

Much has been said about Central State University’s requested annexation into the City of Xenia. Unfortunately, a good deal of the commentary presented is either grossly overstated or just simply wrong.

Like any important public policy issue, the matter of CSU’s annexation into the city should be evaluated with facts. Here are some misconceptions and the real facts related to these claims.

Misconception 1: The city is trying to take over Wilberforce.

The facts: CSU has requested annexation into the city. Under Ohio law, the city cannot simply come in and annex any property it wants; property owners must request annexation, which is exactly what Central State has requested.

The city has no interest in annexing residential areas of Wilberforce and would not even consider doing so unless residents approached the city requesting such.

Misconception 2: The city is getting no value out of accepting the requested annexation of CSU.

The facts: Xenia currently has a one-year contract extension to provide fire/EMS services at a rate of $156,000 per year; under annexation this service contract and revenue would go away. Additionally, CSU currently purchases water from the city with a 20 percent surcharge added to the base rate; with annexation, the surcharge would be eliminated and a residential rate would apply.

Other costs to the city, like added fire inspection services and maintenance services are also being factored in. The city finance department estimates that all of the added expenses plus lost revenue would total approximately $-177,040 per year. On the other hand, current finance estimates project additional income tax revenue collected as a result annexation at approximately $336,000.

This means the net financial benefit to the city is $158,960. This additional $158,960 would be more than enough to cover the total cost of two additional firefighters or two police officers per year. As the university would prosper and add employees, the employment growth would generate additional income tax value.

When the current contract with CSU for fire/EMS services expires next year, there is no guarantee CSU will continue to contract with the city; this means that without the annexation, the city could actually lose revenue beyond 2018.

Misconception 3: The city will have to pave roads at CSU and will have to provide police for the campus.

The facts: As part of the due diligence in preparing for the annexation petition, city leaders have worked closely with CSU leaders to develop service delivery plans that meet the concerns and needs of both. This resulted in a pre-annexation agreement that sets forth the service delivery responsibilities of both partners; and in conjunction with the pre-annexation agreement, the parties agreed to an additional memorandum of understanding regarding the use of Xenia Police Division services for CSU and water infrastructure that currently belongs to CSU.

CSU and the State of Ohio will continue to be responsible for most roadway and utility maintenance and construction on their campus like any private campus.

The university will also continue to operate its police force to patrol the campus, and the city will be a mutual aid partner, (for law enforcement), which is a continuation of our current relationship. The city will provide fire/EMS, as it currently does, as well as professional services like planning and development.

The city will also take over responsibility for water distribution infrastructure. The city will not be responsible for paving roads at CSU, other than maintaining a small portion of Brush Row Road that would be incorporated.

In reality, we will be a valuable partner to CSU in helping to develop good engineering plans and in applying for grant resources to ensure infrastructure needs are met in the area. These are services that a rural township cannot provide.

Misconception 4: Xenia Township would take a big loss if CSU is annexed.

The facts: Under Ohio law for the types of annexation being applied to CSU’s request, the campus would not be detached and would still remain a part of Xenia Township even as it would be incorporated into the city.

Since all of the land that would ultimately be requested for annexation is publicly owned, there is no property tax assessment. Xenia Township would lose no revenue. Once approved, the annexation would eliminate any service delivery responsibility on the part of Xenia Township, reducing cost.

Misconception 5: If CSU is annexed, the rural beauty of Xenia Township will be diminished due to uncontrolled growth.

The facts: Annexation benefits CSU because it reduces service costs while securing permanent municipal services and because it will provide a governmental partner that is pro-jobs and pro-growth. It is no secret that in order for CSU to be prosperous into the future, they need growth in enrollment; to be more competitive in attracting a range of students to CSU there will need to be a growth in services and amenities available.

Regardless of the pace of growth at CSU, the greater Xenia community is rural by nature and can generally remain that way. Growth in jobs and economic opportunities does not have to result in a diminished quality of life for township or city residents. This is why the city employs a professional planning and development staff — to ensure that growth is achieved in sustainable ways that promote a high quality of life.

There are other misconceptions that could be addressed, but there simply isn’t space here. After years of reviewing alternatives, completing due diligence, and developing close working partnerships, leadership from CSU and the city have initiated the annexation because it makes good sense — in terms of service delivery and economic growth. Education is a critical key to a brighter future for Xenia.

Applying the title of “City of Hospitality” to the annexation issue and welcoming CSU as part of our municipal corporation is a practical strategy to promote educational advancement and workforce development. Not only will a prosperous CSU offer more job and business development possibilities to city residents, but advancement of services offered through CSU’s 1890 Land Grant Institution programs will open tremendous opportunities to area farmers — especially those living and farming around our city in Xenia Township.

An honest and fair evaluation of the facts associated with annexation demonstrates a huge opportunity for economic and fiscal advancement for CSU and Xenia. Fears of change and past squabbles should not be reasons to deprive current and future generations of the greater Xenia community from opportunities to advance. A lot of folks have leaped to conclusions about CSU’s desire to be part of the City of Hospitality, but a close look at the facts shows it’s a positive step forward.

By Brent Merriman

Brent Merriman is city manager of Xenia.

Brent Merriman is city manager of Xenia.