What happens if the school levy fails on March 17?
[If the tax levy fails on March 17,] for all of us who do support public education, the CH-UH school board will still have $100 million-plus high school building debt, and a budget in excess of $110 million to educate the roughly 5,000 students who come to school. (We have 20-percent chronic absenteeism.)
After adjustments in state formula funding (including EdChoice scholarships), the school board will still spend $20,000 per pupil, compared to $15,000 at “similar districts,” and to the $12,000 statewide average. District salaries for teachers, administrators and staff will still be at the top of the range in almost all categories, and fringe benefits will still add 49 percent on top of salaries.
The CH-UH City School District will still rank in the top 1 percent of the highest tax rates in Ohio, and [have] the highest tax burden among similar districts, as measured by the Ohio Department of Education.
I asked a levy supporter, “Is there a limit to what the union/school board will spend?” The reply was, “the voters decide that.” Indeed, it is our responsibility to consider the impact on the Heights and the wider community.
Here is a sampling of what concerned residents are saying:
“I have never voted against a levy in the 30 years, but the school district seems to see the residents as a limitless supply of tax dollars.”
“Many people that will vote 'No' are not against the school or specifically against the increase but more what people can afford.”
“I’m a liberal Democrat . . . age 71 . . . working a very physical, nearly full-time, job . . . to pay my CH property tax.”
“My wife and I are both teachers but were specifically warned by a real estate agent not to buy in CH because of the taxes."
We are a middle-income community and an inner-ring suburb. In the last decade, we have experienced lower population, fewer homeowners and families, declining student enrollment, more short-term renters, and stagnant home values. When the next economic rainy day comes, the tapped-out Heights taxpayer may come up short of funds to support vital services and needed improvements.
What message does a “No” vote on Issue 26 send to the community?
The proposed tax levy would increase the annual property tax on a $150,000 house to $6,114. For our fixed-income seniors, for families who want to stay here, for newcomers who want to live here, for longtime homeowners who need money for house repairs, and for local businesses that survive on local dollars, a “No” vote is a welcome message of hope.
We continue to be very generous with our public schools, but it is time to re-balance our priorities to the wider community and “Keep the Heights Affordable.”
Maureen Lynn and her family moved from Pennsylvania to Cleveland Heights in 2011. She is treasurer of Tiger Nation 4 Lower Taxes (www.tigernation4lowertaxes.com), a PAC whose goal is to keep the Heights affordable.