Cleveland Heights City Council meeting highlights 7-6-2015

JULY 6, 2015

  • Public comments
  • Parks and recreation department
  • Police vehicle purchases
  • Nuisance designations postponed
  • Zoning appeals
  • Master Planning Steering Committee appointments
  • Upcoming community events:
  • Bonds issued
  • Tax budget
  • Municipal income tax proposal
  • Sewer overflow control
  • City garage repairs
  • “We are a Colony”

Council Member Mary Dunbar was absent.

Public comments

Income tax: Resident Aaron Trachtman expressed opposition to the proposed income tax increase that council will hear on first reading later in the meeting.

Sewer problems: Lateefa Hafeez of Cedarbrook Road complained about sewer back-up problems on her street.

Parks and recreation department

Council approved the establishment of a Parks and Recreation Department and the creation of a director position. In keeping with the findings of the city’s 2014 strategic operations review, this initiative will enhance efficiency and effectiveness, and is made possible through the repurposing of existing parks and recreation funds, which are currently within the budget of the Community Services Department.

Police vehicle purchases

Council authorized a purchase agreement with Statewide Ford/Lincoln Mercury of Van Wert, Ohio for five new 2016 Ford utility police vehicles and one Ford Fusion police vehicle, at a cost not to exceed $190,000. These purchases are part of the city’s capital improvement budget and will be made through the Ohio Department of Administrative Services Cooperative Purchasing Program.

Nuisance designations postponed

Consideration of two properties for nuisance designation and abatement, at 3784 Delmore Road and 1227 Cleveland Heights Blvd., will be postponed until the next council meeting, when the housing director will be available to provide detailed information.

Zoning appeals

Council granted variances from the zoning code to:

  • Keith and Terry Caryer, 2995 Edgehill Road, to permit reconstruction of a garage with reduced side- and rear-yard setbacks and to pave the driveway with a reduced setback from the side lot line.
  • Laura and Thomas Sweeney, 3605 Randolph Road, to allow off-street parking in order to permit no garage to be constructed.
  • Isaac and Shoshana Newman, 3530 Shannon Road, to permit construction of a house addition and reconstruction of a garage, resulting in 66 percent rear-yard coverage.

Master Planning Steering Committee appointments

Council approved the appointment of the following city residents to the Master Planning Steering Committee: Michael Ungar, chair of the Planning Commission; Howard Maier of the Transportation Advisory Committee; Jeanne Diamond of the Commission on Aging; Ken Dowell of the Recreation Advisory Board; Allison McCallum of the Citizens Advisory Committee; Bill Mitchell, representing city merchants; Saroya Queen-Tabor, representing the schools; Julia Kious Zabell of FutureHeights; and Kristin Hopkins, Yovan "Lou" Radivovitch and Chuck Miller. Council Member Kahlil Seren thanked all who submitted applications, noting that there were so many qualified candidates it was difficult to narrow the selection.

Upcoming community events:

  • Saturday, July 18, Coventry sidewalk sale and pop-up pinball party
  • Saturday, July 18, 2009 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Darryl DMC McDaniels of Run-DMC appears at the Grog Shop

Bonds issued

Council provided for the issuance of bonds in an amount not to exceed $1.925 million for the following purposes:

  • Reconstructing, resurfacing, and otherwise improving city streets
  • Rebuilding Monticello Boulevard and Taylor Road, including engineering and planning costs
  • Acquiring motorized equipment
  • Acquiring computer hardware and related equipment
  • Improving the city’s water system by constructing and installing water lines, together with the necessary related equipment

Tax budget

Council heard a first reading of legislation to adopt the city’s 2016 tax budget, previously submitted to council for review. A copy of the 2016 tax budget is available for inspection by the general public at the office of the finance director at city hall. A public hearing will be held in council chambers on July 20 at 7 p.m., prior to the next city council meeting.

Municipal income tax proposal

Council heard a first reading of legislation to submit to the voters an income tax increase in the fall 2015 General Election. If approved, the clerk of council would file the resolution with the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections on Aug. 5. The proposal is to increase the municipal income tax rate from 2 percent to 2.25 percent, effective Jan. 1, 2016.

Mayor Wilcox outlined the city’s position and explained the rationale for the tax proposal. He reiterated that voters would decide on the proposed tax increase. The last time residents approved an income tax increase was in 1979. In recent years, the city has faced recession, the foreclosure crisis, and the failure of state government to return to local governments the tax dollars that cities send to Columbus. Since 2011, Cleveland Heights has lost nearly $7 million because of the elimination of the inheritance tax and cuts to the local government fund. The city has responded by reducing its budget through staff and program cuts, restructuring health insurance benefits, and more. The city has achieved other efficiencies by joining the Regional Income Tax Agency and becoming the largest city to join the county health care program, to stabilize costs. The city has been part of a joint emergency dispatch for many years and does waste hauling for University Heights and Case Western Reserve University. All this has enabled the city to delay seeking additional tax revenues, while other cities, like Shaker Heights and Lyndhurst, have increased their tax rates.

Wilcox said that the city couldn’t provide the level of services needed to keep Cleveland Heights an outstanding place to live and raise a family unless its residents make the necessary investment. If the income tax rate is not increased, there will be more cuts. Eighty percent of the budget goes to the personnel who deliver services, with safety personnel comprising 44 percent and public works almost 20 percent. Maintaining services is critical to attracting new residents and families.

He noted that retiree income from pensions, investments and social security would be exempt from the requested income tax and the tax credit for residents working outside Cleveland Heights would not change.  

Council Member Melissa Yasinow also commented on the proposed income tax increase, citing state cuts in funding to Cleveland Heights at the rate of $2.5 million annually. She further noted that municipalities across the state are experiencing deep cuts in state funding and many are also seeking tax increases to make up for the losses.

In the coming weeks, council will be requesting feedback from residents. Council has directed the city manager to create an independent task force of residents with financial management expertise to review and analyze the city’s budget projections. Residents will have many opportunities to understand the situation and be fully informed before voting in November.

Sewer overflow control

Council authorized an agreement with Wade Trim Inc. of Ohio, for engineering services relating to the city’s sanitary wewer overflow control project, at a cost not to exceed $100,000. Costs will be covered through issuance of tax-exempt bonds.

City garage repairs

Council authorized an agreement with Design-Build Solutions Inc., to repair one-third of the roof of the city’s service garage at a cost not to exceed $190,000. To keep the garage operational, the roof is being repaired in three stages. Costs will be covered through issuance of tax-exempt bonds.

“We are a Colony”

Mayor Wilcox thanked the We are a Colony Committee and the Cedar Lee Special Improvement District for organizing the special dedication in honor of Jim Brennan, to be held Saturday, July 11 at the Cleveland Heights Forest Hill Park ball fields. He noted that Brennan was an enthusiastic supporter of the city’s recreation programs for more than 20 years, sponsoring softball teams and holding after-game celebrations at The Colony. The naming of the ball field celebrates and honors the energy and commitment that Brennan brought to the community.

LWV Observer: Katherine Solender.

These meeting summaries are abstracted from LWV observers’ written reports. The summaries have been edited and prepared by Anne McFarland, Charlene Morse and Maryann Barnes. To receive e-mail postings of full reports, send an e-mail to or join through Google groups using “lwv-chuh observer reports” as a search phrase.

These reports contain member observation and selected highlights of public meetings and are not official statements of the Heights Chapter of the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland. This disclaimer must accompany any redistribution of these reports.

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