How UH handles the 'yours' and 'ours'

What price is the nation paying for government? According to the nonprofit Tax Foundation, Ohio is about midway between the most expensive states (#1 Connecticut and #2 New Jersey) and the least expensive states (#49 Louisiana and #50 Alaska). Based on government data, the foundation reports “Americans will pay more in taxes than they will spend on food, clothing and housing combined.”

We have a social agreement that some of our individual income will be “yours,” some “mine” and some “ours.”  

What about University Heights? Who decides how the “yours” and “ours” is spent? 

Contrary to popular belief, only 13 cents of each real-estate tax dollar we pay comes back to UH. Cuyahoga County takes 16 cents of each dollar, CH-UH schools get 64 cents, and the library and metroparks get the rest.  

It is our municipal income tax, collected by RITA, that generates the money we need to run UH. In 2009, UH received $7.7 million from income taxes, $2.6 million from real estate taxes, and $2.5 million from other taxes, fees, permits, fines, etc. The total, $12.8 million, was the revenue side of the city’s 2009 operating budget.

In 2006, UH council proposed, and 65 percent of the voters approved, an income tax increase of one percent. 

Who spends the money? As required by charter, the mayor must provide council with a proposed balanced budget and the council is required to evaluate and approve the budget each year. The mayor is then restricted to spending only the amount that council has approved. This “division of spending decisions” ensures that neither the legislative nor the administrative branch will exercise excessive control over our money. 

Fine, but how do they decide what to spend it on? This is the crux of any budget debate. Take two friends who earn and spend the same amount of money each year, except one spends $4.89/lb. on chuck roast, and the other $19.99/lb. on prime filet. Their preferences are not right or wrong, but if these two friends decide to combine their budgets, they will have to successfully negotiate how to buy beef, or a conflict will certainly arise.

Successful cities like UH have budgets that reflect the image the city intends to project. I wrote about this image or “brand” last year. As voters, we weigh in on these preferences by whom we elect for mayor and when we vote a tax hike on ourselves. UH voters continue to guide by attending council meetings and making phone calls to elected officials. 

UH provides amenities, services, diversity and the feel of a friendly small town community. This continues to be voter preference for the city’s direction and vision. Sixty-five percent of the voters gave themselves a tax hike to maintain the services and amenities that make University Heights the city it is today, this brand of UH. 

Council’s 2010 budget approval must ultimately reflect, respect and honor the will of its residents when it comes to spending the dollars that are yours” and “ours.”

Send your comments and suggestions for future topics to Anita Kazarian at AnitaKazarian@gmail.com.

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Volume 3, Issue 4, Posted 12:53 PM, 03.21.2010