Residents confused by special assessment letter

In June, Cleveland Heights residents were notified of a special tax assessment that pays for street lighting and the operation of the city’s forestry division. 

This year, as in previous years, residents were notified by either a notice in the Sun Press or certified mail about the special renewal tax. Those who received a certified letter from the city are the property owners whose total assessments will be more than $250 over the next three years.

While this is the renewal of an already existing tax, there will be a 20-cent increase per foot of frontage, which is measured curb to curb. This increase was unanimously approved by a city council vote in March. 

This tax will continue to pay for street lighting and forestry division services, such as paving, repaving, repairing, plowing, sweeping and cleaning streets, as well as other city-wide services. 

It has been part of the property tax bill in Cleveland Heights since 1978. The tax must be renewed every three years or it expires, meaning the tax has been renewed approximately 12 times. Every three years, when the tax is renewed, residents must be notified, either by newspaper or certified mail. Ohio law dictates that residents who will be charged more than $250 in the three-year period must be notified by certified mail.

Tom Raguz, finance director for the City of Cleveland, said that residents have had a lot of questions about the letter. He said he is not aware of how residents reacted in previous years because he was not the finance director at that time.

Susanna Niermann O'Neil, Cleveland Heights acting city manager, believes that residents showed no more confusion than in previous years.

"Basically, this is the standard that happens every three years," O'Neil said on the matter of the tax assessment coming as a shock to residents. 

Residents with objections to the special assessment were to send their objections in writing to the Clerk of Council at Cleveland Heights City Hall no later than July 16. Raguz said the city had received several objections by the deadline and would send a notice to each objector notifying him or her of a hearing before an Equalization Board.

The Equalization Board is made up of three nonresidents who serve on a volunteer basis and are appointed based on financial knowledge. These hearings are not public and will take place during business hours.

Camille Davis

Camille Davis, a senior journalism major at Ohio University, is a summer intern for the Heights Observer.

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Volume 6, Issue 8, Posted 4:23 PM, 07.31.2013