City Council, with the exception of Councilman Brownlee, will be hosting an informational meeting to promote the two property tax levies that will be appearing on the November ballot. The meeting will be tomorrow night, September 24, 2014 at the Maple Heights Senior Center starting at 7pm. The flyer asks the residents to “Believe in the Future of Your City” by supporting the levies:
- 1.3 Mill levy for the Senior Center, forcasted to generate $318,224 starting in 2016
- 4.7 Mill levy for the General Fund, forcasted to generate $1,150,502 starting in 2016
Last November residents said no to a 6 Mill tax levy (64% voting against it), which is one of the reasons Councilman Brownlee is against the levies. He believes that the residents already said they don’t want to pay more in taxes, twice in the past year (November 2013, May 2014).
This time Council has chosen to split the 6 Mills. The levies would first be collected in 2016 (tax year 2015).
Council has invited Human Services Director, Linda Vopat, Fire Chief James Castelucci, Police Chief John Popielarczyk and Mayor Jeffery Lanksy to speak. Finance Director, Irene Crowell, was not listed on the flyer.
How Much Will the Levies Cost Tax Payers?
A survey of Maple Heights elected officials showed an average (and coincidentally median) market value of $62,000. The owner of a $62,000 home would see an increase of $130, almost $11 a month, if both levies were to be passed by voters.. Over the 5 years, the proposed levies would add up to $651. Maple Heights businesses will be affected as well.
Same Old Story: Maple Heights Needs Money
The agenda also invites residents to “learn why Maple Heights is in Fiscal Watch”. This story won’t have changed since last November’s forum, or this spring’s forum. It will be the state’s fault for balancing the state’s budget at the expense of local governments. It promises to be another long list: the closing of the internet cafes, the county’s fault for not sharing casino revenue, the county auditors office for devaluing our property values (so they more closely reflected their market value) and all the representatives in between who haven’t done enough to help Maple Heights.
Hopefully they won’t add residents to the list saying that they “didn’t help” the last two times they were asked for money. Last Fall’s 6 Mill property tax levy and this Spring’s income tax increase were both defeated with over 60% of residents voting against each proposal.
Maple Heights’ Fiscal Watch Status
Since the last community forum, Maple Heights submitted a Financial Recovery Plan to the State Auditors Office before the August 8 deadline. The auditor’s office had 30 days to review the plan. 44 days later we still haven’t heard whether or not the plan has been accept or rejected by the by the Auditors office. The acceptance or rejection and subsequent revisions of this plan should play a key role in residents decision to pass the property tax levies. A rejection of the plan by auditors office could cause residents to question the capability of city leaders and cause them to wonder what would happen IF the auditors office hadn’t been involved. Below is a chart from page 17 of the Financial Recovery Plan listing the Recovery Plan Items and their projected revenue (or savings) for 2014-2018.
The chart below shows the impact of the recovery plan items on the General Fund. As you can see below, the General Fund will be in the black by the end of 2015. If you look back to the chart above you will see that with the exception of the traffic cameras, the issues on the November 4, 2014 will not hit the General Fund until 2016. Even by eliminating the $3.2 million if the traffic cameras are voted out and the $400,000 (for 2014 and 2015) transfer from the Solid Waste Fund, the General Fund will still be in the black at the end of 2015 ($3.8 cash balance at the end of 2015 minus $3.4 million of the above mentioned recovery items leaves a positive balance of $200,000).
*please note that the only “council reduction” that will be on the November 4, 2014 ballot is the elimination of Council President (2014-26), approximately $18,000 instead of the $45,000 listed in the Financial Recovery Plan submitted to the State Auditors Office. The other ordinance (2014-25 to reduce the number of council members) failed to pass City Council with the needed 2/3 approval.
Questions to ask at the September 24, 2014 Community Forum:
So this information makes us think that we need some explanation. Why is the City asking for money that, according to its own projections, doesn’t need? Here are some questions to consider asking at the forum:
- What is the plan if the levies fail and the cameras are removed?
- How many residents does the Senior Center Serve? How many non-residents?
- Why didn’t the assessment for Solid Waste Removal go down with the elimination of the recycling program?
- Why is there a line in the Financial Recover Plan to have council transfer $200,000 to the general fund from the Solid Waste Fund, isn’t that money just for Solid Waste Removal?
- If the City plans to spend our trash money of other things, what’s to say the same thing won’t happen to the “senior center” money?
- If the City projects to eliminate the General Fund deficit by next year, why more levies?
Let’s not walk blindly into this. If the City wants more money, they must explain why. The burden of proof is on them.