Decade-old fight between Centerville, Sugarcreek resurfaces

The city of Centerville is representing Costco in appealing a ruling by the Ohio Department of Taxation — the latest act in a decade-long feud between the city and Sugarcreek Twp. over who should collect property taxes at the Cornerstone of Centerville property.

The appeal filed by Centerville law director Scott Liberman on Aug. 4 contests a decision that awarded the township more tax revenue than the city for years 2014 and 2015.

MORE: Centerville, Sugarcreek Twp. settle dispute over old Dille property

“If it’s approved, it benefits the city and development as a whole,” city Economic Development Administrator Nathan Cahall said. “In a nutshell, the agreement allows city to act on behalf of Costco and their interest in their appeal.”

The fight stems back to 2006, when the former Dille Farm annexed from the township into the city using a process that left it under both governments’ jurisdictions. Costco now owns two parcels of the property and operates a store there.

Just before the annexation, the township created a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district that allowed it to collect 75 percent of the tax increase from improvements to the property and set the money aside for infrastructure improvements there. The TIF went into effect in 2010 and was supposed to last until 2019.

But the city of Centerville created its own TIF in 2013, allowing it to collect 100 percent of the tax value increase for 30 years. The township tried to block the action in court, but the Ohio Supreme Court ultimately sided with the city.

Cahall said the tax commissioner’s office then did something “rarely seen,” when it issued a revocation order of the initial ruling around December.

RELATED: Cornerstone of Centerville lawsuit escalates

The Ohio Department of Taxation then issued a new ruling in June that the township should get 75 percent of the TIF value in 2014 and 2015, and Centerville get 25 percent. The city then gets 100 percent each year thereafter.

Money collected under a TIF is supposed to be used for improvements on the TIF property.

Sugarcreek township administrator Barry Tiffany said he thought the two municipalities had settled their decade-long differences.

“They’re trying to get as much as they can,” he said. “We settled our disagreement, we felt everything was done. Right or wrong, that’s their decision.”

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The township and city aren’t the only bodies that stand to be affected by the decision.

A TIF can limit the amount of funds available for a school district, which in this case would be Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Schools and Greene County Vocational Schools.

In November, both districts had originally agreed to receive 60 percent of property taxes from Centerville, since the property is still part of the township.

In the agreement, those school districts also agreed to take a five percent decrease in tax money collected if Centerville and Sugarcreek came to terms on fire and EMS services to Cornerstone, which they ultimately did. According to Cahall, the new ruling by the tax commission essentially overwrites that agreement.

Instead of receiving 55 percent from Centerville’s TIF, the districts would receive about 25 percent from the township.

Requests seeking comment from Bellbrook-Sugarcreek School District and Greene County Vocational School District were not immediately returned.

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