Monday Message from the McDonald Hopkins Public Law Team

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Alert 4  Public Law Monday Message

Monday, August 10

To our friends, clients and colleagues in local and regional government, higher education and the nonprofit sector, welcome to our latest Monday Message from the Public Law Group at McDonald Hopkins. In today’s email, assembled by attorneys Teresa Metcalf Beasley, Kelsey Smith and Kevin Butler, you’ll find insights into areas of law we’re watching on your behalf.

In today’s edition:

  • Spotlight on economic development tools: Historic preservation tax credits
  • New lawsuit aims to oust mayor for also serving as safety director
  • President bypasses Congress as houses fail to reach stimulus accord
  • Application window now open for school broadband connectivity grant

Spotlight on economic development tools: Historic preservation tax credits

We are fortunate to count among our ranks an entire team of attorneys who have spent their careers helping government, education and nonprofit entities employ special mechanisms to provide creative and cost-effective solutions for economic development projects and preserve clients’ bottom lines. In our Monday Message we’ll periodically highlight some of these special, often unused financing vehicles sitting right in your back yard.

Today’s spotlight is on historic preservation tax credits. The Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program, which is administered by the Ohio Development Services Agency in partnership with the State Historic Preservation Office and the Ohio Department of Taxation, awards up to a 25 percent tax credit to applicants for qualified expenses that are used for the rehabilitation of historically significant buildings.

The competitive application process is used to help to incentivize the revitalization of deserving buildings that have seen better days by private developers, stimulate the economy, create jobs and transform neighborhoods. A building is deemed eligible as a historic building if it is individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places; contributes to a National Register Historic District, National Park Service Certified Historic District, or is certified by a local government historic district; or is listed as a local landmark by a local government.

The tax credit reduces the amount of Ohio tax liability paid by owners or long-term lessees of the historic building; one dollar of tax credit reduces tax liability by one dollar. The maximum amount awarded for any project is $5 million. Often, the Ohio historic tax credit is paired with the federal historic rehabilitation tax credit program which offers a 20 percent tax credit for qualified expenditures used to rehabilitate a historic building.

On August 5, the Ohio Development Services Agency awarded over $31 million in Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credits that will go toward the rehabilitation of 40 buildings located throughout the state. These tax credits will help to restore historic buildings and by extension transform neighborhoods, create construction and permanent jobs, and encourage additional development within the area.

State and federal historic tax credits, although complex economic development tools, are available to help revitalize struggling historic buildings in downtowns and neighborhoods that can be used to breathe new life into and even recreate neighborhoods. Read up on the awards just announced here and let us know how our Public Law team, which includes dedicated public finance and real estate attorneys, can be of help if you’d like to learn more about how state and federal historic tax credits can best be used for projects in your areas.

Is your mayor serving as safety director? New lawsuit aims to oust mayor for two-job conflict

Last week we spotted an unheralded new lawsuit filed in Cuyahoga County’s common pleas court that may ultimately make some waves around the state. The suit, filed by a firm in Cincinnati and framed as a taxpayer action, alleges that a mayor in a Cleveland suburb should be removed from office because he serves as both mayor and public safety director – despite a charter provision prohibiting the mayor from holding another public office. You can read the complaint here.

At the fore in the case are municipal charter provisions barring the mayor from “hold[ing] any other public office or public employment” and from being “interested in the profits or emoluments of any contract, job, work or service with or for the Municipality.” The question is whether those provisions forbid the mayor from accepting the title of safety director – a position held by many mayors across the state – and its additional salary. The stakes may be high: The plaintiff seeks the removal of the mayor from office if the complaint is sustained, and the likelihood of copycat litigation would be strong.

As a practice group marked by current and former municipal law directors, we’ll have an abiding interest in following this case as it unwinds. Meanwhile, call on any of us for guidance on how your municipality’s charter provisions may be similar or dissimilar to those at play here.

President bypasses Congress as houses fail to reach stimulus accord

Our Public Law team member Kelsey Smith reports today on President Trump’s four executive actions, each signed on August 8, meant to sidestep Congress on COVID-19 relief. Read Kelsey’s post, with links to the president’s materials, here. While the House and Senate continue to draw and redraw lines in the negotiation over the latest phase of a coronavirus relief package, the president’s orders will attempt to provide additional unemployment benefits, defer payroll taxes, extend the moratorium on student loan payments, and provide for the ability to halt evictions and foreclosures during the pandemic. We note the long-sought-after measures – direct aid to local governments and sweeping immunity provisions – are not a part of these orders, and of course we will continue to update you here on all stimulus measures coming from Washington.

Application window now open for school broadband connectivity grant

Today marks the date when Ohio’s K-12 schools may begin to apply for a share of $50 million in state grant dollars designed to helps schools provide hotspots and internet-connected devices to their students. Under the new BroadbandOhio Connectivity Grant, which requires no matching funds, school leaders are now able to seek reimbursement for post-June purchases of eligible connectivity equipment (the lists are viewable here). The application period will close August 21, and so we encourage our friends and clients in primary and secondary education to take note.

If you have questions or need assistance on any of the matters we’ve covered above or with your legal needs in general, please feel free to contact any member of the McDonald Hopkins Public Law team.

Have a great week!

Teresa Metcalf Beasley
Chair, Public Law

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This Publication is designed to provide current information for our clients, friends and their advisors regarding important legal developments. The foregoing discussion is general information rather than specific legal advice. Because it is necessary to apply legal principles to specific facts, always consult your legal advisor before using this discussion as a basis for a specific action.

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