CLEVELAND, December 17, 2019 – Last week Cuyahoga County Council took another step in the process of recommending a health and human services tax levy increase. Voters will face the issue at the ballot in March 2020.
Today, the Greater Cleveland Partnership (GCP) announced its sincere hope to partner further with Cuyahoga County officials to gather additional information and data on the tax increase proposal and its impact. GCP’s ongoing concern is if there is adequate time to identify and address any levy proposal shortcomings.
GCP understands the importance of the health and human service programs in Cuyahoga County. The organization’s members have supported the most recent County health and human services levies, endorsing the 2016 renewal of the 4.8 mill levy and the 2018 renewal of the 3.9 mill levy. In its 2018 endorsement, GCP member leaders vowed to actively engage with the County on the structure of the health and human services levy when it comes up for renewal again in 2020. The tax proposal on the March 2020 ballot represents a 33 percent increase to homeowners and businesses.
Earlier this year, GCP released a tax analysis showing local residents face a disproportionate tax burden. The excess tax burden and pace of overall tax growth has driven the business community to seek systemic solutions and a unified, inclusive strategy in the way our region approaches tax levies. The purpose of this work is to further review the efficiency of our overall local tax system and remain competitive with peer cities by bending our growing tax trajectory. Also, GCP is exploring additional research.
Reacting in part to the fact that Cuyahoga County is facing many potential tax increases in the next year, the GCP Board of Directors recently issued a resolution to help guide future thinking and GCP’s positioning on tax increases until an agreed-upon process for community action is in place.
“The challenge for GCP members is the pace of tax increases in our community and the need to find new approaches that bend the overall curve,” said GCP President & CEO Joe Roman. “Our concern on this levy increase is the lack of detailed information provided to-date, the brief window the business community and other key stakeholders have for a significant review and an overall lack of concrete metrics to measure and report on results.”
The GCP Board of Directors is requesting the following in order to consider taking a formal position on the levy:
- Acquire additional detail on proposal
- Rigorous performance metrics must be finalized, along with a reporting mechanism for each funded service or function (beyond identification of the service provider)
- Benchmarking of peer cities on detailed cost and efficiency of service
- Examination of the degree to which the County is using “lean” or other processes to improve efficiency and a clear commitment to expanding these strategies within HHS programming
- Outline of how opioid settlement award will impact HHS funds
- Create a County government reform task force through Council action that will examine opportunities for collaboration and possible government reform
- Convene various sectors to examine a more comprehensive approach to tax levies in Cuyahoga County
GCP’s strategic plan, ForwardCLE, called for a better understanding of the impact of our collective tax climate. The proposed health human services levy represents the second major local tax increase proposal since data was released from the GCP tax analysis. Additional local tax levy increases are also expected in 2020. GCP has continually reiterated that the purpose of these important exercises and raising the bar for support for future tax levy increases is to seek areas for improvement, not to single out any one tax or entity.