Let's talk about the 'T' word
When I moved here, I was struck by two things. First—what a great town with walkable, bikeable streets; great housing; great business districts; a wonderful park system; and more. This was my dream city.
But then there is the T word—Taxes. Sticker shock! In Michigan and in Chicago, my property taxes were far less than my mortgage payment. I had no municipal income tax, and city services were comparable to Cleveland Heights services.
Here the property tax bill was greater than the mortgage payment, and I had to pay an income tax.
When the city increased the income taxes, I decided to move. I looked at homes in Chagrin Falls, Solon, and Hudson. But I would have been forced to drive my car everywhere instead of walking or biking. And, being an avid bicyclist, I wouldn’t feel safe riding on those two-lane roads. None of these cities had all those things I had grown to love about Cleveland Heights. So, I decided I would rather stay in my dream city.
I understand being distressed by our high tax burden. I know people who moved out because the amenities were not enough to outweigh that burden.
So, what should we do?
First, we must look at the budget carefully with an eye toward efficiency and careful spending. I pledge to do just that. I will also work on what can be regionalized.
Second, I am committed to protect our housing stock to increase values in every part of our city. Rising values mean that the tax rate need not rise. Our inspection program must be robust, especially for run-down, investor-owned properties that drive down values for those of us who live here.
Third, I will expand the tax base by economic development which brings in new residents. In the past we made up for the lost tax dollars when people moved out by raising taxes on those who remained. The more people we lost, the more tax rates rose. That is not sustainable! People need to feel they are getting their money’s worth!
Finally, we must market our city. We are diverse! We are welcoming! That makes us unique—and “cool.”
I have my plan. But I am open to other ideas from residents—as long as they will lead to moving CH in a positive direction for another 100 years.
Melody Joy Hart is a current Cleveland Heights City Council member who is running for mayor. She has more than 35 years of experience in finance, and has held senior leadership positions in the private sector.