Local and state politicians show more empathy to developers than to Cleveland’s children
by Chuck Hoven
Plain Press, July 20220 Cleveland’s new tax abatement policy set to start on January 1, 2024, while better than the current policy, does little to address the glaring need to substantially increase the flow of property taxes to the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. Rather than eliminating tax abatement citywide or at least stopping it in hot real estate markets like Ohio City, Tremont and Detroit Shoreway, Cleveland City Council and the City Administration tweaked the tax abatement reducing tax abatement from 100 percent to 85 percent in the hot real estate markets and placing an abatement cap of $350,000 on single family housing in those neighborhoods.
While the changes should help increase revenue to the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD), – the changes are weak. They should have been more substantial. The changes cater more to developers than meeting the needs of Cleveland’s children in a city with the highest child poverty rate in the nation. Cleveland City Council members and the administration should be ashamed that they did not stand up to developers and do more for Cleveland’s children.
The Cleveland Metropolitan School District and the children CMSD servers are the biggest losers when property taxes are abated. Fifty-five percent of the property taxes go to fund the schools in Cleveland; 19.59 percent go to Cuyahoga County; 15.27 percent go to the City of Cleveland; 7.56 percent go to the Cleveland Public Library System and 2.58 percent go to the Cleveland Metroparks.
At the May 10th Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) Board of Education business meeting, CMSD Chief Financial Officer Derek M. Richey made it clear that once federal dollars from COVID relief funds and the American Rescue Plan Act are depleted, the school district will have to go to the voters to ask for passage of a levy. He said this will be necessary in order for CMSD to continue programs it believes make a difference in improving educational outcomes for Cleveland students. Cleveland taxpayers that are not receiving an abatement will be asked to increase their taxes to make this possible.
Richey also said he expects that CMSD will lose an estimated $3 million to $4 million a year because of a new state law — House Bill 126. The new state law prevents School Districts from challenging at the County Board of Revision property tax appraisals unless the value of the property has been reduced by more than a half million dollars and 10% of the property’s value. Other public entities such as the Library System, Metroparks, City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County are also prevented from defending their interests at the County Board of Revision. The same is not true of property owners and developers – they can take their property tax assessments and challenge them with no restrictions.
Richey says his assessment of the millions of dollars the school system will lose because of this law is based on the record of challenges in previous years. State politicians, like our local politicians, are catering to developers and property owners at the expense of our children.
Anyone that spends substantial time in a Cleveland School or regularly attends CMSD Board of Education meetings realizes the importance of funding our schools. At the May 24th Board of Education meeting, it was clear from testimony of security guards that the lack of funds to increase pay results in a serious recruitment deficit and not enough security personnel in our schools. This impacts the safety of both students and staff.
Cleveland schools also don’t have anywhere near the resources of many of Cleveland’s suburban school systems – resulting in the continued flight from the city of families with school aged children.
Despite the great needs of our school system, our local and state politicians continue to deprive the schools of resources and cater to developers. Why is this happening? What steps can we take to change this? Is this a result of campaign contributions from developers to our politicians?
What is motivating our politicians to act in such a callous manner? If campaign contributions are influencing the decisions of politicians, the solution may be to level the playing field. Perhaps a statewide referendum to limit yearly campaign contribution from any individual, business, or corporation to $20 a year would make politicians less susceptible to the influence of developers and wealthy property owners and make them more likely to address resources needed for children living in poverty.