FitzGerald must deliver on proposed $50 million for blight fight to help ease tax burden on 'burbs: editorial

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FitzGerald must deliver on proposed $50 million for blight fight to help ease tax burden on ‘burbs: editorial

March 31, 2014 [The Plain Dealer]

The subprime loan scandal that brought on the Great Recession more than six years ago left in its wake distressed and stripped zombie properties. Many have become crime magnets, triggering a phenomenon known as “blight flight.” That urban exodus has left deep financial scars in Greater Cleveland.

The price of this population loss makes it even more urgent that Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald deliver on his State of the County promise of a $50 million bond issue to get a jump-start on demolition and repairs.

A new study by the local nonprofit Thriving Communities Institute shows that abandoned and foreclosed properties in Cleveland and the inner-ring suburbs of East Cleveland, Maple Heights, Garfield Heights, Euclid and Newburgh Heights have cost taxpayers in other Cuyahoga County communities more than $44 million because of shifting tax burdens.

The research was financed by Cleveland City Council, the Cuyahoga Land Bank and Cleveland Neighborhood Progress.

Fortunately, FitzGerald says he’s been working on the issue and will have something to County Council soon.

“We will be able to introduce a bill to council by the end of April,” FitzGerald said in an interview for this editorial.

Good. County Council President C. Ellen Connally said she and council need to hear key details such as when the $50 million in bonds to “protect and restore our neighborhoods” will be issued and how they will be financed.

“It’s a great idea,” Connally said about the FitzGerald proposal. “But the devil’s in the details and we have no details.”

The more than $44 million in shifting tax burdens cited in the Thriving Communities study come as property values in harder-hit communities plummet.

For instance, the percentage paid by taxpayers in 53 of Cuyahoga County’s 59 communities for county levies that float the general fund, bonds and social programs as well as the Metroparks, Cuyahoga Community College and the Cleveland-Cuyahoga Port Authority rose from 79.2 percent in 2006 to 83.5 percent in 2012, according to the study.

An earlier study, also spearheaded by Thriving Communities, demonstrated that targeted demolition stabilized real estate values, decreased foreclosures and lessened tax delinquencies.

The figures show why county action is needed: We are all in this together. There is no sanctuary in Cuyahoga County whether you live in Mount Pleasant or Pepper Pike.