HUNTING VALLEY — An 8-mill levy appearing on the Nov. 5 ballot for road repairs is necessary to decrease the village’s annual deficit and keep their investment pool at its current level of $54 million, according to village officials. Significant road improvements are becoming a major expense to the village, and members of the Infrastructure Committee are looking to avoid spending down village reserves.
“If we don’t put this act in place, our reserves will be depleted,” said Councilman Bill Mulligan, chairman of the committee. “We need this to cover the operating deficit.”
In August, council voted to place an 8-mill, 15-year levy on the ballot. The levy would cost taxpayers $280 per $100,000 of property value per year and bring $1.15 million in revenue to the village annually. Hunting Valley is mostly in Cuyahoga County but has some land in Geauga County. According to Village Finance Director Brian Coughlin, the property taxes for Cuyahoga County residents would increase by 10.8 percent and for Geauga County residents by 14.6 percent. Hunting Valley spans both counties.
“With this plan, we’ll be able to finish the road program we currently have planned and maintain our reserves, which are $54 million,” Mr. Coughlin said at the Sept. 6 meeting.
By 2021, Mr. Coughlin said that the village will have completed reconstruction projects on every major road. This road program began in 2013 with Fairmount Boulevard and will end with Chagrin River Road. Two road projects currently are underway on Cedar and County Line roads.
Mr. Coughlin explained that the village used the estate tax to fund operating and capital expenses. When the estate tax was eliminated by state legislators in 2013, the village incurred losses. He listed various actions that Hunting Valley has taken to decrease the deficit, which is forecasted at $4.5 million this year. Village officials have reinvested their funds to increase the yield on their portfolio and invested in Star SMA, which is administered by the Ohio Treasurer’s office. The village also enacted a 3-mill levy in 2017.
“This [levy] is going into the road reserve and any capital spent out of that reserve would go toward the roads,” Mr. Coughlin said. “The road expense is $12 million every 20 years. That’s $640,000 per year and it’s being borne by 270 households. It’s a very large number.”
In 2019, Mr. Coughlin predicts that 37 percent of the village’s income will come from its investments, 34 percent will come from real estate taxes and the remaining 29 percent will come from various other sources, such as building permits, fines and local government funds from the state.
In regard to real estate taxes, Mr. Coughlin explained that the revenues go to multiple entities, including the local school district, the counties, parks and libraries. For those Hunting Valley residents who live in Cuyahoga County, 59.8 percent of their real estate taxes go to the Orange City School District. For those who live in Geauga County, 56.5 percent of their real estate taxes go to the West Geauga Local School District. He said that 100 percent of revenue from the proposed 8-mill levy would come to Hunting Valley.
Committee member John Kundtz said that the roads have fallen into disrepair over the years.
“We neglected the roads for years and years,” he said. “We have to spend more than we want to just to get back to a baseline that we can maintain.”
Service Director Don Cunningham said that after the reconstruction projects are complete, the village will follow a maintenance program for the roads.
“We want to be proactive rather than reactive,” Mr. Kundtz said. “In the past, we did nothing and it put us in a really deep hole. We’ve been digging out of it.”
In a report distributed at the meeting, Mr. Coughlin noted that if the investment pool is spent down, the village may need to add an 11-mill levy in addition to the 8-mill levy to balance the budget.
Committee member William Seelbach said that information about the levy and the village’s financial position should be mailed out to the residents so they are well-informed. Mr. Coughlin said that officials also considered implementing an income tax, but noted that not all residents have earned income and not all are residents of Ohio, since they may spend winters in the south.
“The real estate tax is a more fair and equitable method,” Mr. Mulligan said.
The committee passed a motion to support the road levy that will be on the general election ballot.