CH-UH BOE places 4.8 mill levy on November ballot [Updated]
In an Aug. 10 letter to the Heights Observer, Ryan Routh, chair of the CH-UH City School District’s Lay Finance Committee, announced that the district’s board of education (BOE) “has placed a 4.8 mill levy on the November 2020 ballot.” In remarks at the July 7 BOE meeting, Routh stated that the “additional, two-year operating levy of 4.8 mills is the minimum amount needed to sufficiently cover the costs to operate the district.”
On Aug. 10 and 11, the district’s supervisor of communications, Cathan Cavanaugh, confirmed that the BOE “is moving forward with a November levy.” She declined to provide further information until a press release was approved.
That press release, submitted to the Heights Observer the evening of Aug. 11, stated in part:
“The CH-UH BOE approved the second reading of the proposed 4.8-mill November 2020 additional operating levy language at its July 28 special meeting. At the direction of the board, the district treasurer filed the necessary paperwork with the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections and the levy is now slated to be on the November 2020 ballot.
“ ‘The decision to ask our community for a levy in November was not an easy one,’ said CH-UH Board of Education President Jodi Sourini. ‘We understand that many Heights residents are facing economic instability right now. But after a levy failure earlier this year, a freeze in state funding, and on top of it all a global pandemic, our district is in a dire financial spot. This levy will generate the minimum funds needed to educate our children in whatever environments we find ourselves in throughout the coming school year.’
“The 4.8-mill levy would cost a homeowner approximately $168 a year, or $14 a month, per $100,000 in home value.”
According to Cuyahoga County data on levy impacts and school funding, the annual tax bill per $100,000 of assessed value is $4,248.65 for homeowners in Cleveland Heights, and $4,275.95 for those in University Heights. County data indicates that about 60 percent of that goes to the schools: for Cleveland Heights, that works out to $2,548 per $100,000 of assessed valuation (72.8 mills); for University Heights, it’s $2,566 per $100,000 of assessed valuation (73.3 mills).
The press release cited “devastating financial losses,” stating, “Due to new EdChoice voucher legislation signed into law in March of 2020, the district anticipates losing a minimum of an additional $1.7 million this fiscal year, bringing the total estimated EdChoice-related loss to at least $9.2 million. The district had previously expected, and budgeted for, a $7.5 million loss.”
“We cut 20 positions in April 2020 and made significant cuts in each department’s budget—nearly $2.5 million in total reductions—in order to make up for this shortfall. Future cuts will run much deeper if this levy does not pass in November,” said CH-UH City School District Superintendent Elizabeth Kirby.
When the pandemic hit, according to the press release, the state of Ohio cut the district’s funds by $1.4 million annually. The press release noted, “Federal CARES relief has already been utilized to offset those state funding cuts in the 2019–20 school year. An additional $312,000 in CARES funding is expected for 2020–21.”
In looking to future budget projections, the press release states, “Although the district previously committed to $750,000 in annual budget cuts over the next several years, it will commit to $2 million in spending reductions for the 2021–22 school year. The district faces a $9-million deficit in the 2021–22 school year if the levy doesn’t pass, according to [its] Five-Year Forecast.”
"If it comes to pass that we do not need all of the monies generated by the levy, we will take action to halt tax collection from the community,” said Sourini.
[This article, originally published on Aug. 11, was updated on Aug. 14.]
Kim Sergio Inglis
Kim Sergio Inglis is editor-in-chief of the Heights Observer, and is a Cuyahoga County master gardener volunteer.