Resident urges against spending estimated $200 million on new school facilities
To the Editor:
I was very disappointed in your editorial.
I attended a number of public meeting about the school facility "plan" and I spoke at a couple--mostly though, pretty ignored by arrogant SB and "academics" who are hellbent on taxing us to death to go $200 million into debt to build "fancy all new building."
I guess they want a legacy or something? A real journalist would have some investigative curiosity. Alas, this is presented to tax payers as a "fait accompli." If SB wants something, they get it.
This is a transient community--lots of renters, lots of people living on entitlements (Section 8, welfare, food stamps) and a lot of students, grad students, interns/residents . . . what does this translate to? A lot of people who cheerfully pull the lever for "big tax levies" knowing that when the bill comes due, they will be somewhere else and won't have to pay it.
(This would also be a very good subject to write about and investigate; don't you guys have any sharp young interns?)
It behooves to discuss how as a community, we were harder hit by the foreclosure crisis than any other suburb in Ohio, and in fact, have been written about at the national level as an example of total foreclosure disaster.
The City Council in their "wisdom" has been bulldozing--BULLDOZING!--40+ homes a year. I have the weed-choked empty lots around me. They've given up on fixing stuff, and now just plow it under. I see homes being sold (short sales or auctions) for as little as $2800--no there is no missing zero. The average price is around $35,000--that is almost 60% off the peak in 2006. My home has lost 2/3rds of its value.
Yet my tax BILL is the same--why? the County, in collusion with Columbus, won't reduce property evaluations (more than a fraction) and not back to 2007, 2009, etc. They insist our homes are worth the same as before the crash--why? because a realistic appraisal would lower tax collections! 90% of the property tax goes to schools; 90% of THAT goes to public union members (90% of whom do not live in our community--it's good enough to work in, but god forbid they sent their own children to our failing schools!)
Ms. Fisher, you look around the area (NE Ohio), you notice a striking pattern--the communities with the BEST schools and best results are the ones with the lowest taxes. Sure, there are a very few outliers--Shaker, with its multi-millionaires and mansions, to whom an astronomical tax bill barely registers. But MOST have low taxes, and good schools--Rocky River, Westlake, Solon, Beachwood, Highland Heights, Mayfield Heights, etc. Even older suburbs like Lakewood have 25% lower taxes than we do.
The higher the taxes, the worse the schools. East Cleveland has high taxes. Warrensville Heights has high taxes. But the highest taxes are in Cleveland Heights/U.Hts, and we have the worst schools outside of Cleveland and East
We pay the 2nd highest property tax rates, and the highest OVERALL rate (due to excessive income tax) of any other community in the state. Yet we are so undesirable to live in that we are losing population like a leaky sieve, and
have fallen BELOW 50,000 (a critical measure of a suburb) at the same time our taxes are such a crippling burden that people are forced to move out. Somehow, nobody puts these things together and thinks "hmm . . ."
Over the years (I have lived here since 1979), I have talked to countless people who were moving OUT of Cleveland Heights--not out of town, or for a job, but simply to live in another suburb. I have talked to them "off the record," and privately, so they could be very blunt. Every single one of them said they were leaving because of the high taxes, and the bad schools.
Mostly recently we lost some lovely neighbors, a young couple with 3 little girls. They moved to Medina, 60 miles away. They are lifelong residents of NE Ohio. Why did they move? TAXES. What was the first thing they said about
their home in Medina (with excellent schools)? "Our tax burden is less than 1/2 what it was in Cleveland Heights--on a
home worth twice as much. We are saving $300+ a month!" It's also safer, cleaner, has better shopping & restaurants. Yeah, it's not as "walkable" but with the extra thousands of dollars, they can buy a gym membership.
Why do I tell you all this? Because the Heights Observer never says ANYTHING about this issue. They mention failing schools on Academic Emergency and "Continuous Failure" as if it were irrelevant, then relentless promote a
frightening, irresponsible $200 million building boondoggle . . . as we contemplate TEARING DOWN buildings like Fairfax and Boulevard, which were only built in the SEVENTIES (in another hysterical building spree, on the
theme of "open classrooms" . . .)
In short, we can't afford $200 million. We will be hard pressed to come up with the money to fix the boilers and other physical plant issues in our existing schools! SPEAKING OF THAT: we just had a levy last year, and why the hell did they not ask for enough money to fix boilers? I mean, seriously! that's Common Sense 101.
And fancy buildings won't get people to move to a rundown community that is bulldozing 40 homes a year, and in the midst of an ongoing foreclosure crisis. Period. The "fancy building" theory was TRIED in 1970, when this was a much more viable community--and failed.
Failed so badly we are tearing those buildings down and abandoning them.
But yeah, let's build MORE expensive buildings on MORE idiot trendy "new ideas" and let's spend millions on iPads (so they can get stolen). Is there an educational idea anywhere stupid enough we won't sign on, and spend taxpayer money for it?
In closing, I'd like to say if any plan offered a "trade off" that involved LOWER TAXES, I'd faint from the shock. AS IF the School Board would give us back a nickel. Dream on.
A 30+ year resident, homeowner and taxpayer!
--- --- ---
A message from the publisher:
I think it is important to respond to the letter above, and clarify some points. The "Opening the Observer" column is not a space for editorial opinion, but rather it is a space to share information and encourage community dialogue. In this month’s column, Jewel Moulthrop explains the role of "Opening the Observer," and also announces that the Observer, in partnership with the Civic Commons, has established a new forum for community discussion and dialogue on select topics that are important to Heights residents. The first topic is School Facilities.
The Observer has no writing staff. As a nonprofit, community paper, it relies on members of the community to write and submit articles, letters and opinion pieces about life here in the Heights. We welcome and depend on the input of our readers. We ask that all submissions be civil and constructive.
Last month’s "Opening the Observer" column, "School facilities are important to the vitality of our community," was a call for community involvement and a notice of the committee meetings that are taking place—not an endorsement of any plan. If you have an opinion about school facilities, or want to know what is happening, please get involved. Attend a meeting of the Lay Facilities Committee, contact members of the school board (listed at www.chuh.org) or the chair of the LFC, Patrick Mullan (firstname.lastname@example.org), or join the discussion at the new forum, http://theciviccommons.com/user/futureheights.