On April 28, Cuyahoga County voters overwhelmingly approved an increase to the Cuyahoga County Health and Human Services (HHS) levy, passing by an unofficial margin of approximately 70 percent to 30 percent. The 4.7 mill levy is a replacement levy for the county’s previous 3.9 mill levy. Cuyahoga County homeowners will pay an additional $41.58 for every $100,000 in home valuation. Initial estimates were that the levy increase would raise an additional $35 million, however, those projections were before the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 4.7 mill levy is a replacement levy for the county’s previous 3.9 mill levy.
The margin of victory is a clear statement about how voters feel about the importance of a strong HHS safety net in Cuyahoga County. When combined with the county’s other 4.8 HHS levy, $244 million is brought in annually into the HHS levy fund, which supports services for citizens from the youngest to the oldest. Many ballots were cast before the onset of COVID-19 pandemic, but due to the absentee voting deadline being extended through April 28, some were cast in the middle of the pandemic.
The passage of the levy means that voters will likely not see a Cuyahoga County HHS levy increase for at least the next eight years.
The levy increase process was not without its hurdles, as the Budish administration initially suggested a replacement levy. The increase was then placed on the ballot without unanimous support from county council (two county council members voted against it). In the end, the passage of the levy means that voters will likely not see a Cuyahoga County HHS levy increase for at least the next eight years, as the 4.8 mill levy will likely not change when it is up for renewal in 2024. The passage of this HHS levy will also help to provide some much-needed relief from the fiscal pressure on the Cuyahoga County general fund. With the economic impact of the pandemic yet to be determined, the county is projecting sales tax revenue losses from 20 to 35 percent (roughly $50 million to $89 million). The health of the county’s general fund is critical, as it serves as the fiscal backstop on the HHS levy fund. Moving forward, the county will begin to see the increased revenue from this levy in 2021, when the financial impact of the pandemic will be more fully understood. This will guide the important county budget conversations that will take place in the fall of 2021.