By Kevin Kelley
Unless the new county government can maintain its current level of health and human services programs, it won’t be as successful as the corrupt government it replaced.
That’s the view of Dan Brady, who represents Brooklyn, Linndale and sections of Cleveland on the Cuyahoga County Council. The Democrat heads up the campaign seeking voter approval of Issue 1, a 3.9-mill levy to pay for health and human services programs of Cuyahoga County. Brady spoke about the levy at an Oct. 17 town hall meeting at the Westshore Campus of Cuyahoga Community College organized by Westshore county Councilman Dave Greenspan.
The 3.9-mill levy consists of a replacement of an existing 2.9-mill tax and the addition of a 1-mill tax. A renewal of just the existing tax would have meant the county’s health and human services budget would lose $23 million annually due to declining property values, Brady said. So County Council added one mill and moved the vote up from the spring, when it was originally scheduled, Brady explained. The increase in millage will enable the county to maintain its current levels of service, he said.
In addition to helping fund MetroHealth Medical Center, county health and human services programs serve the disabled, orphans, senior citizens, homeless persons and individuals with mental health problems, Brady said.
Brady expects a low turnout at the Nov. 5 election, so every vote will be important, he told meeting attendees.
The five-year, 3.9-mill levy would collect about $106 million, or $27 million more than the current tax, and cost a taxpayer $136 per year for every $100,000 of assessed value. The levy is one of two that funds the county’s health and human services programs.
Also on the Nov. 5 ballot is Issue 80, a 2.7-mill levy to fund the Cleveland Metroparks. The 10-year levy consists of the renewal of an existing 1.8-mill tax and the addition of a 0.9-mill tax. If passed, Issue 80 would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $92 annually.
Brian Zimmerman, executive director of the Cleveland Metroparks, noted that this is the first time the park district is debt-free and has not sought voter approval of a levy since 2004.
The Metroparks, which owns and operates the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, contributes significantly to the region’s economy and tourism industry, Zimmerman added. The park district is an important component of the region’s watershed, which means it helps filter pollutants from water, increasing the water quality, Zimmerman told meeting attendees.
The levy provides about 63 percent of the Metroparks’ annual budget, Zimmerman added. The district has lost some state funding and was forced to make cuts, including layoffs, Zimmerman said.
Westlake resident Bob Smith, one of nine members serving on the board of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority, spoke on behalf of Issue 82. The renewal of a 0.13-mill tax for five years would cost a homeowner 29 cents per month, or $3.48 annually, for every $100,000 of assessed value.
“Taxwise, it’s not huge,” Smith said.
If approved, the tax would generate approximately $3.1 million per year, or about 35 percent of the port authority’s budget.
The port authority’s maritime cargo operations, which process 13 million tons of goods, support 18,000 jobs in the region, Smith said.
The agency also encourages economic development by helping to fund projects of private businesses, institutions and governments. Since 1993, the port authority has funded around $2 billion in projects, including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and FirstEnergy Stadium, Smith said.
Greenspan, who voted to place Issue 1 on the ballot, said he was not formally taking a position on any of the three countywide tax issues.