by Joe Kirkpatrick
First the City of Cleveland announced a proposed major property tax increase, and now County Commissioner Jeff Morelock has followed suit and proposed a county property tax increase as well. Three years ago, when the city lobbied for an increase in sales tax, were we not assured by them this would take care of their needs for years to come?
Nobody likes tax increases, including me. However, I must admit the county probably has a better reason to raise them than the city. When a new school is built, or one is renovated, the county is required to give the city 1/3 of the money they borrow for the construction. However, if the city builds a new school, they do not have to give the county anything. With the suggested proposed tax increases, the city taxes should now equal or exceed the present county property tax rate.
Under the tight leadership of County Mayor Gary Davis, the county has not had a property tax increase in over ten years.
I live in the city, and the city government tends to have more of a "spend, spend, spend" mentality than the county. However, their spending does have perks: free garbage service, free trash and debris pickup (do you know how much the landfill charges them to take all of that stuff??), better road maintenance, and plenty of nice well maintained parks and greenways.
The big problem with both the city and county budgets, of course, is the cost drain of running two school systems. Two things could greatly reduce the expenses of both school systems: #1 is to consolidate the systems, which would cut administrative salaries and office expenses by 40%. #2 is build less elaborate schools. As I have previously written about in my column, building expensive school buildings DOES NOT increase student academic achievement. A study done by local businessman Alan Jones several years ago showed that the city school system's annual operating budget was 25% higher than the county's budget. City schools has almost 1/3 more square feet per student in their buildings, yet test scores were only 1 - 1.5 points higher per student than the county. Yet, despite what both systems will tell you about their "graduation rates," the bottom line is still 1 out of every 3 students who will start school this year in either system will drop out of school before they graduate. Despite all of the fancy buildings with plate glass fronts, this is pretty much the same as it was 50 years ago. Millions of dollars could be saved by building how almost every commercial building is now built: They either build nice metal buildings with brick fronts, or by using prefab concrete panels that join together.
I realize tax increases are sometimes a nasty necessity of life, but I do feel the amount of these increases could be greatly reduced by better planning. I urge the members of both of these governmental bodies to weigh their options very carefully.