Because tax collections for cities are down, many proposals for collaboration and consolidation to reduce costs are bubbling up. Recognition is growing that the local and regional government structures we have in place are costly and inefficient. As your elected representative, I’ll work for you to promote cost-effective and efficent government.
One problem is simply too many government entities. Cuyahoga County alone has a total of 59 cities, villages and townships. More broadly, the 16 counties that make up Northeast Ohio have more than 400 communities. Add in school districts, libraries and judicial districts, and the result is that our region has the highest number of tax-supported employees of any comparable region in the United States. Maybe this all made sense at one time, but in these challenging economic times, it doesn’t.
The proposal to consolidate the governments of Cleveland Heights and University Heights would be one step in reducing our overabundance of municipal governments. Other approaches expand on the tradition of neighboring cities sharing services, such as the joint dispatch center for police and fire that serves Cleveland Heights, Shaker Heights and University Heights. Agreements among cities to use the same systems pave the way for further collaboration and for joint purchasing to reduce the cost of goods or services the cities purchase. These are just some ways of addressing costs.
Another proposal, the Regional Prosperity Initiative, addresses income by suggesting more equitable sharing of tax income among regional cities. Under this proposal, a community – such as Solon – gaining new tax revenues from commercial and industrial development would retain 60% and pool the remaining 40% to share with other communities in the plan. For income taxes from the new business development, the split would be 80% retained, with 20% added to the pool. This only applies to new development; it is not retroactive. Personal incomes taxes and residential property taxes would remain unchanged.
Again, in the current economic climate, we have great opportunities to work toward more cost-effective and efficient government, including local and regional collaboration. As your elected representative, my aim will be to make both proposals and decisions that offer the best long-term outcomes for you, our community and our region. Ultimately, what is good for our region should be good for you and for Cleveland Heights, if we make the right changes.