Tag Archives: Ohio

Don’t mess with RITA in Niles recovery plan

Source: The Vindicator, July 31, 2017
 
Last week, the Niles Financial Planning and Supervision Commission, the state-appointed panel overseeing the city’s recovery, put its stamp of approval on the seventh rendition of a plan authored by Mayor Thomas Scarnecchia and approved by city council. It lays out a road map for cost-cutting and capital improvements for the beleaguered city of 19,000 people over the next five years.  Among its more noteworthy features include implementation of two $5 license-plate fees to generate about $180,000 a year, borrowing of $1.6 million to make critically needed improvements to crumbling city buildings and dismantling the city’s income-tax department.  That latter move to outsource most income-tax functions of city government to the Regional Income Tax Agency operated in connection with the Council of Regional Governments has ignited a firestorm of opposition from some within city government, most notably the leadership of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 506 in the city. …

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Niles deciding whether to outsource income tax collection
Source: Stan Boney, WKBN, July 14, 2017
 
It appears Niles will have a five-year plan — which includes outsourcing income tax collection to an agency outside of the city — to get out of fiscal emergency. But not everyone agrees with it.  The plan would replace the Niles Income Tax Department with the Regional Income Tax Agency, known as RITA. … Bob Ward, president of the AFSCME Local 506 — a union representing the income tax workers, said he’s not in agreement with it.  He showed WKBN a grievance from 2016 — which the union won — preventing RITA from taking over.  Ward said they’ll file another grievance if need be. …

Ohio’s spending on private IT contracts balloons under Kasich

Source: Randy Ludlow, Columbus Dispatch, May 14, 2017 

State spending on information-technology consultants, contractual employees and other private services has ballooned to $452 million a year, while the number of generally less-expensive state IT employees has dropped.  As part of a preliminary inquiry into no-bid contracts uncovered by The Dispatch, the office of Ohio Auditor Dave Yost reports that spending on IT “personal services” has more than doubled from $207 million in 2011-12. … A Dispatch investigation published last month revealed that Administrative Services officials overrode the concerns — both legal and financial — of agency purchasing analysts to award millions of dollars in no-bid contracts, including to a company employing former state IT executives. Supervisors deny disregarding the agency’s purchasing policy and sidestepping the protocol of the state Controlling Board, a bipartisan group that approves major state outlays. The House-passed state budget includes language authored by Rep. Keith Faber, R-Celina, requiring state officials to seek bids on all IT consultants and purchases. The provision also would require such contracts to be submitted to the Controlling Board for its approval.

Gov. Kasich’s budget bill would allow no-bid sale of 6,900 acres of prison farmland

Source: Alan Johnson, Columbus Dispatch, April 29, 2017

The state could sell more than 6,900 acres of prison farmland through “negotiated real-estate purchase agreements” rather than competitive bidding or public auctions under the budget bill pending in the Ohio House.  Language permitting an unusual no-bid process for selling nearly 11 square miles of state land is built into the two-year state budget proposed by Gov. John Kasich’s administration. … The Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, a labor union representing about 30,000 state employees, including prison workers, said in a statement that the proposed no-bid process for selling the land is “troubling.” The union wants it removed from the budget bill.   “The clear pattern of waiving the rules around competitive state bids is troubling,” said union President Chris Mabe.  “Not only are IT (information technology) contracts part of that pattern, it now appears state farmlands could be sold in a back-door deal with zero competition or transparency. For all we know, whoever lobbied to close the farms could walk away with a huge land deal for a fraction of the value. Either way, taxpayers will be the loser here.” …

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An end of an era at prison farm as beef cattle are sold
Source: Lou Whitmire, Mansfield News Journal, October 25, 2016

The beef cattle that graze outside the Mansfield Correctional Institution farm on Ohio 13 were sold Tuesday at auction, ending an era at the prison for inmates raising registered Angus cattle. MANCI cattle manager Bernard Bauer II became emotional, unable to speak for a few seconds as he told the large crowd of farmers who came to bid that he had spent the past 14 years building the registered Angus herd. … The cattle auction Tuesday was held for a complete dispersal of prison’s registered  Angus breeding herd, including registered aged bred cows, registered bred heifers, registered open breeding heifers, commercial open yearling heifers, registered breeding bulls and registered bull calves. This herd had an estimated aggregate value at auction of $535,250. … In April, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections announced the state prison farm operated at Mansfield Correctional Institution was among 10 agricultural operations Ohio is shutting down in a move to raise millions of dollars to fund new rehabilitation and job-training programs for inmates through land sales. … Earlier, Ohio Civil Service Employees Association officials said the move was announced “without much explanation, rationale or plan” in a conference call to the union. Tuesday, roughly 50 members of the union picketed along Ohio 13 North, outside the farm. The union had sought an injunction from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to halt the sale of prison farm assets until a pending grievance was arbitrated. The court denied the union’s request. A grievance filed by the union regarding the closures is still pending. …

The Day The Last Cows Left Prison
Source: Esther Honig, WOSU, October 25, 2016

As the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections prepares to shut down its farming operations, the final auction of black Angus cattle got underway at the Mansfield Correctional Institution. Some 300 buyers came from around the country. But not everyone is pleased to see the cows off. … As cattle were auctioned off, the union representing the Mansfield prison farm employees – the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association – held a protest outside the prison. They’ve organized protests for the other three cattle auctions held by the ODRC earlier this year. Union president Chris Mabe says 50 ODRC employees will lose their jobs due to the closures. He say the program was beneficial for inmates and the local community. … Products from the prison farms, like milk and vegetables, were used to supplement the diets of Ohio inmates. The farms also donated thousands of pound of vegetables to local food banks. Jo Ellen Smith with the Ohio Corrections Department says the farming program is being phased out to make room for, “more meaningful career training opportunities.” …

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Ohio State plans to privatize energy with largest investment in university history

Source: Owen Daugherty and Summer Cartwright, The Lantern, March 30, 2017
 
Ohio State has proposed a plan to receive its largest investment in the university’s history by selling its energy to the highest bidder. In accepting the unprecedented proposal, OSU will move forward in a public-private partnership with ENGIE, a French global energy producer and operator, who would control the energy used on campus for the next 50 years. The agreement, which is the first of its stature, includes the largest upfront payment — to the tune of $1.015 billion — between an American university and a global energy partner, OSU officials said. University officials said they ultimately chose the proposal from ENGIE-Axium because it offered the largest upfront payment of the three competitors, in turn committing the most money to the University’s endowment. This continues the trend of OSU privatizing its resources, which began with its CampusParc deal in 2012. The 50-year, $483 million deal was also the largest of its kind. …

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Ohio State CFO will recuse himself from decision in energy privatization plan
Source: Tom Knox, Columbus Business First, March 9, 2017

The chief financial officer at Ohio State University will recuse himself from deciding who will privatize the university’s energy operations. Geoff Chatas will help analyze the financial aspects of the deal but won’t know who the final candidates are – they’ll be masked to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest, said Ohio State President Michael Drake. … The CFO won’t have a say in who will run the university’s energy operations for 50 years because of a choice he made in 2015 when he accepted a job at the parent company of CampusParc, which in 2012 had negotiated a deal with university officials, including Chatas, to privatize OSU’s parking operations. The move raised questions of quid pro quo, which Chatas vehemently denied, but he soon reversed course and stayed at the university. … Ohio State expects to make a choice on energy privatization before the end of the school year. It’s a unique arrangement for a public university: a group of companies would for 50 years operate utility assets that make Ohio State run, including natural gas and chilled and heated water facilities. The winning bidder would have to meet sustainability goals sought by Ohio State. …

OSU moving toward privatizing its power system
Source: Laura A. Bischoff, Dayton Daily News, February 11, 2017

Ohio State University says it is taking the next step toward becoming the largest institution nationwide to hire private companies to manage its energy systems for decades to come. OSU Provost Bruce McPheron gave notice to staff and students on Thursday that the university will formally ask finalists to submit proposals for the massive project. The finalists in the running have not been disclosed. Ohio State administrators will determine by the end of the current semester whether to ask trustees to pull the trigger on it. The university is weighing whether to hire private contractors to take control of critical assets: the utility system that heats, cools and powers more than 400 buildings on main campus. OSU would receive an undetermined amoung of upfront cash and then agree to buy its energy from the vendor. The contractor would be responsible for making energy efficiency upgrades to cut OSU consumption by 25 percent within a decade. …

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Student Login Records at Ohio E-Schools Spark $80 Million Dispute

Source: Benjamin Herold and Alex Harwin, Education Week, March 7, 2017

The Ohio education department could seek repayment of more than $80 million from nine full-time online schools, based on audits of software-login records that led state officials to determine the schools had overstated their student enrollment. The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, for example, was paid for 15,322 full-time students during the 2015-16 school year. But state officials said they could document just 41 percent of that total. An Education Week analysis of both the login records submitted by ECOT and the results of the state’s audit for that year further demonstrates the scope of the discrepancy: Under Ohio law, schools are expected to offer students 920 hours of learning. But for the average ECOT student, state officials were able to document just 227 hours spent using the school’s learning software, Education Week’s review found. …

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Online charter school loses state attendance audit appeal
Source: Associated Press, December 15, 2016

A judge will allow Ohio’s education department to review attendance records that could force Ohio’s largest online charter to return millions of its funding. Franklin County Judge Jenifer French on Thursday finalized a ruling against the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, or ECOT. The decision rejects a request by ECOT to block the state from requiring the school provide log-in durations as a way of measuring how many students attend the school. The state said has said that ECOT’s enrollment is nearly 60 percent lower than originally reported, potentially jeopardizing about $60 million in state funding from last year. …

ECOT online charter school appeals two rulings that threaten $60 million in funding
Source: Patrick O’Donnell, Cleveland Plain-Dealer, October 11, 2016 (Appeal available at bottom of article)

The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) has filed appeals with both the Ohio Department of Education and an appeals court to challenge rulings that threaten more than $60 million of its state funding. Neither appeal offers much detail of the online charter school’s case, but they start procedures to block the state from recovering money paid to the school last year because it cannot document how much time its students spent on their classes.

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School vouchers are not a proven strategy for improving student achievement

Source: Martin Carnoy, Economic Policy Institute, February 28, 2017
 
Betsy DeVos, the new U.S. secretary of education, is a strong proponent of allowing public education dollars to go to private schools through vouchers, which enable parents to use public school money to enroll their children in private schools, including religious ones. … This report seeks to inform that debate by summarizing the evidence base on vouchers. Studies of voucher programs in several U.S. cities, the states of Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, and in Chile and India, find limited improvements at best in student achievement and school district performance from even large-scale programs. In the few cases in which test scores increased, other factors, namely increased public accountability, not private school competition, seem to be more likely drivers. And high rates of attrition from private schools among voucher users in several studies raises concerns. The second largest and longest-standing U.S. voucher program, in Milwaukee, offers no solid evidence of student gains in either private or public schools. In the only area in which there is evidence of small improvements in voucher schools—in high school graduation and college enrollment rates—there are no data to show whether the gains are the result of schools shedding lower-performing students or engaging in positive practices. Also, high school graduation rates have risen sharply in public schools across the board in the last 10 years, with those increases much larger than the small effect estimated on graduation rates from attending a voucher school.

… The lack of evidence that vouchers significantly improve student achievement (test scores), coupled with the evidence of a modest, at best, impact on educational attainment (graduation rates), suggests that an ideological preference for education markets over equity and public accountability is what is driving the push to expand voucher programs. Ideology is not a compelling enough reason to switch to vouchers, given the risks. These risks include increased school segregation; the loss of a common, secular educational experience; and the possibility that the flow of inexperienced young teachers filling the lower-paying jobs in private schools will dry up once the security and benefits offered to more experienced teachers in public schools disappear. The report suggests that giving every parent and student a great “choice” of educational offerings is better accomplished by supporting and strengthening neighborhood public schools with a menu of proven policies, from early childhood education to after-school and summer programs to improved teacher pre-service training to improved student health and nutrition programs. …

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Paying for success

Source: Jason Axelrod, American City and County, February 6, 2017

Several local and state governments are pioneering a new investment model to finance projects in their areas that uses success as a payment benchmark. Social impact bonds (SIBs) — also known as pay-for-success models — involve public-private partnerships (P3s) in which private entities invest in public projects that are overseen by governments, organized by nonprofit intermediaries, executed by service providers and are ultimately evaluated by independent entities. Such projects generally tackle social issues like homelessness or family welfare, and they aim to reduce government dollars spent on existing measures. Unlike a municipal bond, an SIB has no fixed rate of return for investors. An SIB’s ROI yield depends entirely on the project’s success, based on outcomes defined in the SIB contract. At pre-defined points in the project’s execution, a study of the program’s effectiveness will be carried out, and the government will accordingly pay funders pre-defined amounts based on how certain benchmarks are met. …

… The Denver Social Impact Bond program provides up to five years of supportive housing and Assertive Community Treatment for 250 homeless repeat offenders who cost taxpayers over $7 million per year in legal and health care-related expenses, city documents show. … In 2013, the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) sought and obtained technical assistance from the Harvard Kennedy Government Improvement Lab in constructing and executing an SIB project to address its greatest unmet service need at the time— parent and caregiver substance use, according to DCF Chief of Staff Elizabeth Duryea. … In 2015, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, became the first U.S. county to institute an SIB-funded program with a similar mission to Connecticut’s SIB-funded project. The county’s Partnering for Family Success Program seeks to reduce the amount of days children spend in foster care, which was one of the more expensive items in the county’s budget. …

Privatized prisons serve terrible meals for inmates — and now protesters will fight back

Source: Alex Orlov, Mic, January 12, 2017

In private prisons, where corporate food contractors are paid to provide nourishment and sufficient calories to prisoners, some are allegedly cutting corners.  Activists will march in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 14 to protest food corporation Aramark, an $8.2 billion company, for allegedly serving subpar food, PBS News Hour reported. Leading the protests will be members of Free Alabama Movement, a group that previously organized a prison labor strike in 2016 to protest the use of free labor in prisons nationwide, a practice they say is akin to slavery. Aramark, their newest target, is a food service provider that serves over 380 million meals in correctional facilities in the U.S. each year. … The crux of the problem is that Aramark and other food contractors have no accountability when it comes to prison food, David Fathi, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project said in a phone interview on Tuesday night. … It’s no secret that prison food — in private or public correctional facilities — can be borderline inedible. … According to allegations, Aramark’s service is mediocre at best and dangerous at worst. … It’s unclear what demands Free Alabama Movement will make when they take Washington on Saturday, but the fact that the group is bringing attention to the issue of prison food isn’t to be taken lightly.

New Youngstown prison contract could put hundreds back to work

Source: WYTV, December 15, 2016

Hundreds of people could be back to work at the private prison on the east side of Youngstown. Mayor John McNally said on Thursday CoreCivic recently let him know of new developments for the facility formerly known as the CCA. The company laid off more than 250 workers at the Youngstown prison in 2015 after federal prison contracts ended. McNally said CoreCivic received a new contract to house up to 600 federal immigration detainees. It will start at the beginning of the year. … Gov. John Kasich just approved a plan to send some state inmates to the private prison. That could take place as soon as next spring. …

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Governor gets bill that could benefit Youngstown’s private prison
Source: WFMJ, December 7, 2016

A bill on its way to the desk of Ohio Governor John Kasich could breathe new life into a private prison in Youngstown. Lawmaker in Columbus have passed a bill to ease overcrowding in Ohio’s state operated prisons by allowing more people to be housed in prisons for profit, such as the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center on Hubbard Road. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons pulled 1,400 offenders from the private prison in Youngstown last year after awarding its contract to another company. The reduction resulted in the loss of 185 jobs at the prison according to a notice posted under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. …

Ohio Senate OKs bill allowing private prisons to take state inmates
Source: Mark Kovac, The Vindicator, December 2, 2016

Legislation that would allow state prisoners to be transferred to private prisons, like the one in Youngstown, has cleared the Ohio Senate. The Thursday vote on Senate Bill 185 was 26-1, and the legislation heads back to the Ohio House for consideration of Senate amendments. The original legislation focused on arson offenses, expanding the crime to include unoccupied structures. Language added by senators during committee deliberations would enable the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to contract with private facilities to house state prisoners. State Sen. John Eklund of Chardon, R-18th, who serves as chairman of the committee that considered the legislation, said the language would allow the state to take advantage of inmate beds left vacant when the federal government ended contracts to house federal prisoners at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center in Youngstown. … The Federal Bureau of Prisons opted in March 2015 not to renew a contract, which expired May 31, with NOCC on Youngstown’s East Side, resulting in the exodus of about 1,400 of its 2,000 prisoners. Those prisoners were illegal immigrants charged with felonies. Also, 185 employes were laid off. Then, four months ago, federal officials announced they no longer routinely would house federal inmates in privately operated prisons because of a rapid decline in the U.S. inmate population nationwide. The prison, run by CoreCivic of Nashville, currently houses about 580 inmates through a contract with the U.S. Marshals Service that expires at the end of 2018. …

Privatizing Franklin County’s information technology work could cut 30 jobs

Source: Kimball Perry, Columbus Dispatch, December 12, 2016

Franklin County Auditor Clarence Mingo wants to update the county’s computer center by hiring a private company for information technology services, a move that could cut 30 county jobs. … The data center, with an $11 million budget in 2016, provides IT and computer services for 44 county government departments and offices. Mingo’s office administers the data center and its 60 employees, but it is overseen by an appointed board. In July, Mingo brought to the board a proposal he said would save taxpayers millions while providing up-to-date, around-the clock IT services and security. To do that, though, about half of the current data center workers, whose skills and expertise may not have kept pace with technology, could lose their jobs. In addition to saving $4.3 million over five years, Mingo’s plan would modernize the data center, where some workers specialize in software that is 30 years old. Mingo suggested it would be too costly to retrain existing employees and far more efficient to hire a private company for those services. … Two other data center board members, though, suggested Mingo’s original plan was insufficient, and the board commissioned a $250,000 study. The study recommends replacing some data center workers with a private company. …