Cuyahoga, Lorain County voters to face major tax issues
La Prensa urges its readers to approve Issues 4 and 6 as it relates to CMSD and Tri-C—education is our future!
By Kevin Milliken, La Prensa Correspondent
Latino voters and others in Cuyahoga County and Lorain County will be asked to approve major tax issues on the Nov. 4, 2014 ballot. Both counties are the only ones in Ohio where the board of elections is required to print a bilingual ballot, because of large Spanish-speaking populations in both venues.
Chief among them in Cuyahoga County is Issue 4, a $200 million bond issue for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) to build 22 new schools and renovate up to two dozen others. Issue 4 also includes a 0.5 mill property tax for maintenance, which would generate $2.5 million annually. The Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) would commit $2 in state money for every $1 generated from the bond issue.
The modernization plan basically continues a bond issue voters passed in 2001. That program started after the gym roof collapsed at East High School in 2000. CMSD officials contend that property owners will pay no more than they have for the 2001 bond issue. The district will see three new schools open in the next year: John Marshall High School, Max S. Hayes High School, and the Cleveland School for the Arts. In all, the previous bond issue has resulted in the construction of 34 schools and the renovation of seven others.
CMSD leaders have pledged to the public that the board of education has adopted and will maintain the city’s Community Benefits Agreement for construction projects, which means the district will place a priority on hiring city residents, minorities, women, and small businesses.
Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) is seeking a property tax levy known as Issue 6. The levy has two parts: a 1.2 mill renewal with a 0.9 mill increase. The current levy expires at the end of 2015 and generates $31.7 million per year. The increase would raise another $24.2 million annually and cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $31.56 per year.
Community college officials sought the levy increase from voters this year, blaming reduced state financial support and a decline in property tax collections. Tri-C operates primarily on two ten-year property tax levies, which provide more than half of the institution’s $192 million annual budget. Voters are asked to support one of the levies every five years. Tuition is currently just under $105 per credit hour, the second-lowest in the state.
Tri-C officials contend the community college would have to cut an additional $40 million per year if the levy fails. The school’s leadership stated the levy would keep a college education affordable and accessible for the area’s students and families, protect the local economy and workforce competitiveness by providing up-to-date education and training, and help local companies and workers maintain access to high-quality technical degrees and job retraining with up-to-date technology.
Issue 35 is a proposed change to the Cleveland city charter that would essentially ban the use of red-light and speeding cameras in the city. According to ballot language, if passed, no one would be issued such a ticket unless a police officer was present at the location of the camera and personally issued a citation on the spot.
The proposed charter change is a citizen-led effort to ban the city’s current use of 54 traffic cameras, which were first installed in 2005. Cleveland collected an estimated $6 million in camera-related fines in 2012.
The hotly-contested issue is one that made its way to the Ohio Supreme Court. Proponents argue the cameras improve safety by reducing crashes at dangerous intersections and provide 24-hour enforcement of traffic laws, which frees up officers to do other police work. Critics call them an invasion of privacy and designed to be a cash-cow for the communities who use them.
The charter change may prove to be a moot point. State lawmakers plan to consider a bill later this fall in the lame-duck session that would effectively ban red-light and speed cameras throughout Ohio. At least a dozen cities, including Cleveland and Toledo, currently use them.
Lorain County has four countywide issues on the Nov. 4 ballot.
La Prensa urges its readers to approve Issues 5, 6, and 8!
The Lorain County Board of Mental Health is seeking renewal of a 10-year, 1.2 mill levy.
Issue 5 would generate $7.3 million per year, more than half of the agency’s annual budget, and would replace the existing levy, which is set to expire at the end of the year. If approved, the levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $36.74 annually. Last year, clinical services were provided to more than 10,000 people—one-third of those under the age of 18.
Lorain County Children Services has placed Issue 6 on the ballot, a renewal with a 0.3 mill tax increase, totaling 1.8 mills over five years. The levy covers just over half of the agency’s budget. The agency that investigates abuse and neglect cases, as well as handles foster care and adoption programs, would receive $10.7 million annually. If approved, the levy increase would add $10.56 to the current $45.96 paid each year by the owner of a $100,000 home.
The Lorain County Crime/Drug Lab is looking for voters to approve an addition 0.08 mill, five-year levy. Issue 7 would raise just under half a million dollars each year, and cost the owner of a $100,000 home $2.80 annually. One-third of the revenue goes toward operating the crime lab; the rest would help to fund a regional drug task force. Voters rejected the levy last May.
But county commissioners this time are hopeful the levy will pass, because of the recent explosion in heroin use, which borders on an epidemic in Lorain County, along with the promise of a return to blood and fingerprint testing. That equipment was removed from the crime lab due to a lack of funding, leading to an increase in the time it takes to get those tests conducted.
Issue 8 is a 1.6 mill, 10-year levy renewal with a 0.3 mill increase for the Lorain County Metro Parks system. The Metro Parks levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $50.31 annually, up from the present $39.81 per year. The agency has an annual budget of just under $10 million to operate and maintain 23 parks, which combined, have 10,000 acres for outdoor recreation. The Metro Parks system sees more than 2 million visitors each year.