City leaders: State cuts increase levy's importance
Grandview Heights leaders are stressing the "critical" nature of Issue 22, the property tax replacement levy voters will consider on their Nov. 6 ballots.
The 7.5-mill measure would provide about $410,000 annually in operating funds and another $250,000 to be set aside for residential street improvements. (This story will focus on the operating portion of the levy; street repairs will be the subject of a story in next week's Tri-Village News.)
"When we last went to the voters (with an income-tax increase) in 2010, we developed a long-term plan on how we would operate through the year 2015," Mayor Ray DeGraw said. "We positioned ourselves to get through that period of time."
The Grandview Yard project is adding new components yearly now, with an apartment development nearing completion and a rehabilitation hospital scheduled to open next year, DeGraw said.
"The Yard is doing what we anticipated it would do," said Grandview City Council member Susan Jagers.
But state budget cuts to the local government fund have resulted in an annual reduction in state funds of about $623,000 for Grandview, DeGraw said.
If it wasn't for the loss of state revenue, "we'd be asking for a renewal levy and not a replacement levy this year," DeGraw said.
If approved, Issue 22 would be the first change in the millage rate and the amount of property tax collected since the tax was first approved by voters in 1998, he said.
The property tax replacement levy would change the collected millage from 8.3 mills to 7.5 mills.
The levy would allow the city to collect property tax on current property values in Grandview, DeGraw said.
Unlike many communities, Grandview has seen the value of its housing stock increase, he said.
The average home in Grandview now has an appraised value of $266,343. That's an increase of more than $25,000 since 2009, Jagers said.
If the levy passes, the owner of a home with the average appraised value would pay about $611 in property taxes -- an increase of less than $22 per month, she said.
Property taxes make up about 20 percent of the city's general revenue funds, DeGraw said.
In the aftermath of the loss of grocery chain Big Bear and other major taxpayers, the city previously reduced personnel by 14 percent and reduced spending between 2009 and 2010, then maintained flat spending between 2010 and 2011, he said.
The city would cease to collect property taxes in 2013 if Issue 22 fails, and the resulting budget cuts would mean a reduction in the level of city services that could impact the health and safety of the community, DeGraw said.
It also would tarnish Grandview's image as a dynamic community that is appealing to new businesses and new residents alike, he said.
The levy would allow the city to maintain its current level of services, DeGraw said.
The city held a town hall meeting in the spring and residents indicated they understood the city's financial situation and preferred an increase in property taxes over boosting user fees for such services as the municipal pool and the collection of trash and yard waste, he said.
"It's critical that we pass the replacement levy," DeGraw said.