As the county wrestles with the human toll and economic impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, county voters have consistently been supportive of county levies that fund community services, including health and human services. There are a number of levies currently in place in Cuyahoga County that impact the community; analysis of more than a dozen levies, bonds, and tax initiatives can serve as a resource for voters and organizations in their educational efforts and officials in their strategic planning.
Cuyahoga County did not have any major spending levies on the November 2021 ballot or the 2022 May ballot. However, that could change in the coming years. Here are all of the levies that will be presented in Cuyahoga County.
Cuyahoga County Health and Human Services
There are two Cuyahoga County Health and Human Services (HHS) levies. One is an eight-year, 4.7 mill levy that was passed in 2020 and expires on December 31, 2028. It is one of two levies (along with another eight-year, 4.8 mill* levy that was passed in 2016) that fund health and human services. When combined, the two levies bring in $285 million annually.[i] Combined, the levies cost a homeowner $258 in annual property taxes for every $100,000 of home value.[ii]
When combined, the two levies bring in $285 million annually.
The HHS levies support institutions such as MetroHealth, the Alcohol, Drug Addiction, Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board of Cuyahoga County, Child and Family Services, Job and Family Services (JFS), the Department of Senior and Adult Services, and many more. The county HHS levies account for more than half of the total health and human services spending in Cuyahoga County.[iii]
Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C)
Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) has two alternating 10-year operating levies, with separate renewals. In 2019, Cuyahoga County voters overwhelmingly approved (64 percent) a 2.3 mill levy. That levy will run until December 31, 2029.[i] The levy currently brings in $64 million a year and costs a homeowner $66.54 in annual property taxes for every $100,000 of home value. The other ten-year levy, approved in November 2014, expires in December 2024. When combined, the levies are estimated to bring in $121.6 million in net revenue, or approximately 53 percent of the college’s $230 million annual budget. Of the 23 community and technical colleges in Ohio, Cuyahoga Community College is one of only six that levies local taxes, which according to the College, helps to mitigate some of the challenges that will be faced by other institutions in the state.
In addition to the two operating levies, Tri-C also receives money from a 25-year capital bond levy. In November 2017, 68 percent of Cuyahoga County voters approved a 25-year bond levy for Tri-C. The levy raises $227.5 million for renovation and construction across all campuses. For more information: Tri-C Financial Information Report.
Cuyahoga County Port Authority
The Port Authority levy is among the smallest county tax levies (.13 mills) and costs the average homeowner approximately $2.72 for every $100,000 of home value. The levy brings in approximately $3.3 million annually, which amounts to almost one-third of the total budget for the agency. The renewal levy last passed, by a measure of 65 percent of voters in favor of it to 35 percent against, in November 2017. The levy is set to expire in 2022.
The Port of Cleveland uses most levy funds for current and future maritime and environmental infrastructure projects, such as Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve, Irish Town Bend Stabilization efforts, and Flotsom and Jetsom workboat operations. Less than a third of levy funds are spent on Port of Cleveland general operations (which vary from year to year). For more information: www.portofcleveland.com.
Passed in 2013, the Cleveland Metroparks passed a 2.7 mill, 10-year levy which will expire in 2023. The levy brings in approximately $77.7 million annually and costs the average homeowner $88.98 for every $100,000 in home value. The Metroparks levy comprises 59 percent of the revenue of the Cleveland Metroparks budget.
Cleveland Metroparks contributes at least $873 million annually in economic benefits to the community.
The Metroparks is comprised of 18 reservations spanning more than 24,000 acres with more than 300 miles of trails, eight golf courses, eight lakefront parks, and the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Cleveland Metroparks supports nearly 18 million recreational visits each year. An economic driver, Cleveland Metroparks contributes at least $873 million annually in economic benefits to the community. For more information: Cleveland Metroparks Final Budget
Cuyahoga Arts and Culture (CAC)
The CAC is one of the largest, single sources of local public funding for arts and culture in the nation. The 10-year levy passed most recently in 2015 with more than 75 percent approval. This is the highest approval rate of any county-wide ballot issue in the past 10 years. The tax of $.30 per pack on cigarettes sold in Cuyahoga County resulted in approximately $12M in 2021 for CAC. The tax revenue generates nearly 100 percent of the revenues that CAC distributes.
The tax revenue generates nearly 100 percent of the revenues that CAC distributes.
Since 2007, CAC has invested more than $218 million of taxpayer funds in more than 445 organizations. As expected, the revenue from cigarette taxes has been steadily declining for 15 years. The current levy expires in January 2027. CAC, a separate political subdivision, has had to make fiscal decisions to adapt to decreased resources and will continue to do so moving forward. CAC is working in collaboration with its partners to explore opportunities to expand the current tax. To learn more: www.cacgrants.org
Cuyahoga County Public Library
The Cuyahoga County Public Library has two levies. One is a 2.5 mill continuing levy that is sourced through property taxes in the 47 communities served by the library system. The levy passed in 2008 and brings in $44 million per year. The levy costs a homeowner $75.67 per $100,000 in home valuation, per year. The levy remains in perpetuity and is not subject to a vote.
In November 2020, Cuyahoga County voters approved Issue 70, a 1.0 mill levy that brings in an additional $18 million per year. That new levy costs a homeowner $35 per year per $100,000 home valuation. Together, the two levies comprise about 72 percent of the agency budget.
Together, the two levies comprise about 72 percent of the agency budget.
According to the library, CCPL’s levy funding supports county residents of all ages who rely on the library for access to 27 library branches, technology, books, digital content, and programs. For more information, check out the Cuyahoga County Library Annual Financial Report.
Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities
Eighty percent of the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities’ budget comes from a 3.9 mill continuing levy that was passed in 2005. At that time, the levy brought in $117 million per year. Today, the levy brings in approximately $106 million per year. The levy costs a homeowner $120 in annual property taxes for every $100,000 of home valuation. The levy remains in perpetuity and is not subject to a vote. For more information, visit www.cuyahogabdd.org.
Sports facilities excise tax
Finally, the county levies an excise tax (also known as “sin tax”) from the sales of cigarettes and alcohol, which goes to capital maintenance of Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, Progressive Field, and Cleveland Browns Stadium. Last passed in 2014, the sin tax brings in between $13 and $14 million per year, from 2015 through 2034.
As Cuyahoga County moves forward, it will be important for voters to learn about the impact of levies on organizations, as well as the impact on the overall community.
Cuyahoga County Council and County Executive elections
The elected officials who will make the decisions regarding the future of levies are the Cuyahoga County Executive and Cuyahoga County Council. Half of Cuyahoga County Council, Districts 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11, was up for election (or re-election) in 2022. The other half of the council, Districts 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10, is up for election (or re-election) in 2024. The next County Executive election will take place in November 2022.
[i] 2021 Cuyahoga County Results of Operations
[ii] Cuyahoga County Office of Budget and Management
[iii] Cuyahoga County Executive Budget
[i] https://www.tri-c.edu/about/documents/budget-book.pdf, Page 52