ELYRIA — Opposition to a Lorain County land bank is growing among the schools districts and municipalities which would lose money from their already tight budget to fund the land bank
The land bank, which was approved Wednesday by Lorain County commissioners will have a yearly budget of an estimated $769,945, but $438,852 will come from money that now goes to school districts and municipalities from fines collected from late property tax payments.
Elyria schools is cutting 47 positions to erase a projected $5 million deficit. With the land bank funding, it stands to lose about $55,825 a year.
That might not sound like a lot, but “that’s equivalent to at least one teacher ,”Superintendent Paul Rigda said.
The hardest hit school district would be Lorain City Schools, slated to lose more than $60,000 to the land bank. Next is Elyria City Schools and Avon schools, at more than $50,000 each, and then Avon Lake and Amherst school districts will each lose more than $30,000, according to a spreadsheet from Lorain County Commissioner Tom Williams, who voted against the land bank, in part because of the way it is funded.
The land bank will purchase dilapidated properties that can be transferred, held, managed and leased, rather than let foreclosed properties stand empty. The land bank would also issue bonds, apply for grants, make loans and borrow money. Its purpose is to eventually bring vacant, tax foreclosed and under utilized property to productive use.
But taking money from schools “is not good for the students of Amherst,” said Amherst schools Superintendent Steven Sayers.
The state has cut more than $4 million from school budgets in the past three years, and to get hit with another $31,000 loss would be detrimental to the students, he said.
“It’s not a good thing for Amherst at this point,” he said.
Sayers acknowledge the land bank is a good program with a lot of benefits to the county, but his job is “to advocate for the students of Amherst.”
Sayers said he sent an email to Williams about his concerns and expressing why he couldn’t support a land bank at this point. Williams has said he is aware that many school districts don’t support the land bank, which is partly why he voted against approving it.
“The timing just couldn’t be worse,” Sayers said.
Money from the delinquent tax fees also go to benefit the municipalities, and Avon Mayor Jim Smith said the commissioners never talked to him about a possible $50,000 loss to his city budget.
“It may be a decent idea,” Smith said about the land bank, “(but) tell us about it.”
He was also disconcerted about Avon paying $50,000 of the projected $137,900 coming from the cities while other municipalities were losing as little as $1,200.
“We’ll be paying a good portion of something we’ll never see the benefit of,” he said, because a majority of the kinds of properties that would benefit from the land bank are not located in Avon.