Cleveland Heights Residents Strike Down Proposed Income Tax Increase
Cleveland Heights residents spoke loudly on March 4, 2008 as they defeated Issue 29, a ballot initiative that would have raised the city’s income tax rate. The proposed measure would have increased the Cleveland Heights income tax 0.4% from the current 2% tax to 2.4%.
Voters defeated the measure soundly with 61% of voters voting against the issue, leaving only 39% in favor of the measure.
Issue 29, proposed and highly supported by the Cleveland Heights City Council, had become a controversial measure citywide and was one of two local tax increase measures that Heights residents had to consider.
The City spent a good deal of January and February promoting the measure with several forums and discussions throughout the city. The key argument in favor of Issue 29 presented by the City was the continuation of the current level of city services.
Without Issue 29, the City has steadfastly assured residents that cuts will be felt going forward. Current city income tax revenue has flat lined and is expected to remain flat or decline while the local and national economy works out the foreclosure crisis.
It is estimated that Cleveland Heights has over 800 homes in the foreclosure process, further burdening the City’s income stream. It is unknown at this point what services will be cut in the future. City Council will be working diligently on the 2009 fiscal year budget in the coming months.
It appeared that Issue 29 had strong legs early on as the majority of voters indicated their support for the measure.
Kari Ross, a young Cleveland Heights resident, reluctantly voted for Issue 29 despite concerns over paying more taxes during difficult financial times. Kari said, “this tax is a bit of a hit but the material presented on the Cleveland Heights website indicated that this tax was needed.” She also felt that the vote would be “very tight” but that Issue 29 would pass.
A new Cleveland Heights resident, Marjorie M. Moyar, who moved to the city in January, also voted for the measure. Marjorie felt that the “measure would pass and that more quality services were important from the city.”
The tide changed however throughout the day as more dissenters emerged to strike down the measure. An anonymous Heights resident was quoted as saying “this tax represents another blow to Cleveland Heights residents who have already been asked to approve numerous tax increases over the past three years, not to mention increased property taxes and sales taxes at the County level.”
Voters were not eager to go on the record against Issue 29 fearing further complications between City and citizen relations. Many asked that their comments be considered general responses and asked to not be named in this story.
What is clear is that Cleveland Heights residents demanded on March 4, 2008 that City Council make the tough decisions on budget cuts. It should also be noted that City Council showed a considerable amount of courage putting forward this issue. City Council could have approved the income tax hike without voter approval but placed the ballot measure before the citizens to gain their feedback.
What happens next remains to be seen.