CH-UH taxpayers don't slack in supporting our schools

The state of Ohio calculates a “local tax effort index” for each school district in the state, using a four-part formula (read the description of Item 39 at the Ohio Dept. of Education District Profile link below, for more information). The purpose of this measure is to assess how much effort the local community is putting into supporting its schools, in the context of residents’ ability to pay, measured by income. The state average is used as a baseline (set equal to 1.0000), so that every school district’s effort can be compared to the statewide average.

The Cleveland Heights-University Heights local tax effort index is 1.4567 for FY 2019, according to the district's profile. This data shows that we (CH-UH) are making a substantially greater effort to support our schools (given our income) than the state average as a whole (1.0000), and in comparison to “similar districts” (local tax effort: 1.2036) as defined by the state.

We can look at this data in relation to specific other districts, for example, neighboring Shaker Heights. Why Shaker? Its property tax rates ($3,949 per $100K valuation) are similar to CH ($3,799 per $100K valuation) and UH ($3,822 per $100K valuation), and the city also relies primarily on residential property valuation, with business property accounting for only 11.28% of total valuation, similar to the 16.75% business valuation for CH-UH. The state calculates that Shaker has a tax effort index of 1.1051. This indicates that, even though Shaker has high tax rates, when this is evaluated in the context of its residents’ incomes, its level of effort is slightly higher than the state overall, but considerably below CH-UH‘s effort index of 1.4567.

Looking at income data (Ohio Dept. of Education uses tax data from state and federal returns) for CH-UH, the median income is $37,752, while the average income is $76,789. In comparison, Shaker Heights’ median income is $47,045, and its average income is $138,774. The median measures the income at the 50th percentile, indicating that half of CH-UH taxpayers have incomes of $37,752 or less (in comparison to Shaker’s $47,045 and the state’s median of $34,091). The average income numbers are heavily influenced by the values at the top end, and the CH-UH average income ($76,789) is lower than both Shakers’ ($138,774) and the statewide average ($82,435).

CH-UH residents should feel very good about the extent of our support for local schools, given the resources of our community. We are going far beyond the state average, our “similar schools” comparison group, and even higher-tax neighbor Shaker Heights, in taxing ourselves to support our schools.

While this level of sacrifice is admirable, given the importance of education, it may be leading us to under-support other public priorities (e.g., economic development, public works, road repairs, programs for elders, etc.), and it is undoubtedly a serious burden for a substantial portion of our community, which is filing tax returns with an income below $37,752 (the median). This should be food for thought as voters consider the next school levy.

[Data sources: tax rates (, school district profiles (]

Mary Hurley

Mary Hurley has been a resident of Cleveland Heights for the past 15 years.

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Volume 13, Issue 2, Posted 12:13 PM, 02.01.2020