Opinion: CoverMyMeds Should Cover Their Taxes
At the Columbus City Schools Board of Education meeting last night, board members were presented with yet another tax abatement request. This one involves a $100M corporate campus environment for one of Columbus’ top startup success stories, CoverMyMeds.
Currently, CoverMyMeds resides in 132,000 square feet of the Miranova building in Downtown Columbus. The company was acquired in 2017 for $1.3 billion by San Francisco-based health-care giant McKesson Corporation, which reported revenues of nearly $200 billion in 2017. Their growth plans for CoverMyMeds requires long term needs of about 400,000 square feet of office space, and the perfect site that has been identified by their partner CBRE is near the Orange Barrel Media HQ and surrounding lands southeast of I-670 and SR-315.
The preliminary site drawings that CBRE presented at the board meeting show an extension of the bike path, a boat launch, bike storage, and a boat dock. As well as other unnamed site amenities. It is unclear whether these are open to the public, but regardless, they are all worthwhile community investments that will contribute to CoverMyMeds often being named a ‘Best Place to Work‘.
But for this project to be economically viable for CoverMyMeds and CBRE, the school board is being asked to approve a 100% real estate tax abatement for 15 years. Otherwise, a different site that does not need board approval and does not require income tax revenue shares with the city will be chosen.
To make the abatement ask more appealing to the school board, CoverMyMeds has put together a community involvement plan to offer the following to CCS:
Computer Programming workshops
- Quarterly workshops covering basic coding skills and programming basics
- All ages including elementary, middle, and high school levels
- 16 sessions per year equalling 24 hours of instruction for between 200 and 280 CCS students
Career Guidance Curriculum
- Quarterly presentations on careers in technology
- Technical career fairs, workshops covering interview preparation and interview skills training
- In person sessions offsite and onsite in the Company’s career center
- 16 sessions per year | Flexible on volume of CCS student interest
- CCS students invited to company and community events
- The Company will provide annual scholarships to 20 CCS students to attend TechCorps summer camps. TechCorps provides learning opportunities for middle & high school students around programming, robotics, and application development. The scholarships are value at $10,000 ($500 per student).
Preparing CCS Students for Leadership Positions in the Tech Field
- 6 to 8 employees will work with faculty and up to 50 CCS students each quarter
- 6 to 8 employees will work with faculty on designing and training a workforce preparedness curriculum
- 5 CCS high school seniors will be selected to work part time at the Company each year
All of this programming sounds wonderful. They are skills needed in our community so that people in our community are able to apply for and be hired for the 1,032 potential new jobs that CoverMyMeds is hoping to have over the next five years. CoverMyMeds needs people with skills to perform in Client Services, Development and Infrastructure, Sales, Account Management, Industry Relations, Accounting & Finance, Enterprise Business Systems & Intel, Legal, Information Security, Marketing, HR & Talent, and Innovation.
TechCorps has a summer youth employment program that according to a representative at TechCorps, currently has about 32 students from Columbus City Schools. Students are paid for their work. TechCorps also has summer camps that offer payment assistance.
The Downtown High School and Fort Hayes offer academic pathways in Information Technology in IT Support and Services, Interactive Media, Programming and Software Development, and more. The district also has higher education partnerships with the universities around the city.
Revenue sharing from the income taxes would provide $9M to the district through the first 10 years of the abatement (50% to CCS and 50% to the City of Columbus). Years 11-15 are being negotiated with the city wanting to keep 100%.
After the abatement burns off in year 2036, the district is being told they could collect between $5M and $6M a year.
I appreciate board members W. Shawna Gibbs and Eric Brown for asking how it can be guaranteed that these job projections will be realized. Especially in light of the Dispatch’s recent article about how they are often not. I also appreciated Gibbs asking how to ensure the value of the building holds true to what is being proposed in the ask, because she stated that “we’ve seen stadiums that have received tax breaks suddenly have the value of a Dairy Queen once the abatement burns off.”
The programming olive branch being offered from CoverMyMeds looks like a great opportunity. And our students need businesses to step up and offer these kinds of opportunities.
However, our district is in a time of need. We are discussing closing schools. Eliminating positions. Many of our schools are working with a barebones staff. It was alluded to last night at the board meeting that the district will at some point come back to voters.
How does this tax abatement help our most vulnerable students?
How does this tax abatement help keep our schools open?
How do our overextended teachers find the time to work on an additional program and curriculum so that a billion dollar business in our community can feel good about not paying their share of real estate taxes that other property owners pay for our schools and students for the next 15 years?
It’s time for businesses to invest in their communities 100%. Stop the tax abatements. Support your community.
W. Shawna Gibbs expressed that they would like to have public input on this decision. The board members have until Thursday, June 28 to have their questions addressed. They will be voting on the 15 year 100% real estate tax abatement on Friday, June 29, which will then move to City Council on July 16.
The District has put together a comment form on their website and are accepting public comments on the 15-year Enhanced Tax Abatement request by CoverMyMeds through Thursday, June 28.