Levy opponents outline concerns in letter to BOE

On Sept. 2, a slightly longer version of the following letter was sent to the CH-UH Board of Education (BOE), Superintendent Kirby and Treasurer Gainer. As of Sept. 14, I had yet to get a single response. These “leaders” are ignoring their fiduciary responsibilities. We need to hold them accountable and demand more transparency. Vote “no” on Issue 69.

Dear School Board Members,

On July 28, TigerNation4LowerTaxes (TN4LT) reached out to let you know that a petition had been signed by over 800 residents asking you to request a performance audit by the state auditor as soon as possible and prior to voting to place a levy on the November 2020 ballot. Today, over 1,600 residents have signed the petition and joined the call for a performance audit.

We received a response from [BOE President] Sourini, stating that residents’ calls for a performance audit were not going unheeded, and that we “simply did not like” the answer that was provided. That answer, according to Ms. Sourini, is that the district reached out to the auditor’s office and was told it could take several months to get on the schedule and then six months to complete the audit. She also stated that this timetable was before COVID-19, which could delay the process further. The State Auditor[‘s office], however, has stated that the pandemic has not impacted its ability to conduct performance audits and has not created a backlog.

On July 28, TN4LT also presented a revised five-year forecast to demonstrate that it is possible for the district to operate without additional levies. We are disappointed that you have chosen not to engage with us in a meaningful effort to review the district’s forecast. To his credit, [BOE member Jim] Posch responded via e-mail on July 29 that he was grateful for our constructive feedback, and committed to review the revised forecast and provide us with a list of questions regarding our assumptions/projections.

In an opinion published in the Heights Observer on Aug. 18, a group of 18 residents called on the Schools to “fix” health care spending. That opinion stated that if the CH-UH school district’s health care contract were similar to the Shaker school district’s health care contract, it could potentially save our taxpayers more than $7 million a year.

The CH-UH district's August 2020 Five-Year Forecast shows a $53.2 million deficit by 2025. Even if this November's levy passes, the district would likely need to place another 9 mill levy on the ballot in March 2022!

Our community is struggling:

  • As of June 2020, unemployment in Cleveland Heights [was] close to 14 percent.
  • More than 100 full- and part-time city employees have been let go due to the pandemic.
  • The current forecast projects the city will have a $1 million funding shortfall this year.
  • The city is contemplating a debt restructuring because its bond retirement fund is being rapidly depleted.  
  • The cost of bringing Cleveland Height’s sewer system into EPA compliance is estimated at a staggering $620 million.

As public officials, you have a broad fiduciary duty to carry out your responsibilities in a manner that is faithful to the public trust that has been reposed in each of you. We urge you to:

  • Reconsider your decision to place the 4.8 mill levy on the November ballot. 
  • Negotiate a contract with the CH-UH teachers’ union that brings health care spending in line with other school districts.
  • Contact the State Auditor’s Performance Audit team and request a performance audit.

Maureen Lynn

Maureen ‘Mo’ Lynn is the treasurer of TigerNation4LowerTaxes and is self-employed with her consulting business. She and her family moved to Cleveland Heights in 2011.  

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Volume 13, Issue 10, Posted 10:11 AM, 10.01.2020