Sometimes a face-to-face thank-you is worth the extra effort. Carole DePaola drove more than two hours last week to thank state Rep. Juanita Brent, D-Cleveland, in person for her quick action to protect the Orange City School District from losing millions in revenue during the state budgeting process.

The 76-year-old Columbus resident and 1961 Orange High graduate said Rep. Brent alerted local officials to an 11th hour decision by the Joint Conference Committee that would have significantly reduced school property taxes solely for Hunting Valley landowners.

“I was so enraged as an educator that a legislator would be that petty,” said Ms. DePaola who traveled from her central Ohio home to attend Rep. Brent’s Ohio Promise Town Hall Tour stop at Orange Village Hall.

Before the General Assembly approved the state’s $69 billion biennial budget in July, the conference committee approved an amendment that would have slashed $3 million to $6 million annually in revenue to the Orange district by changing the way property taxes would be collected only in Hunting Valley. Other municipalities in the Orange school district would continue to pay the higher rate.

State Sen.Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls, appeared to have introduced the Hunting Valley amendment.

“[Sen. Dolan] was quoted saying that [Hunting Valley kids] went to private schools anyways,” Ms. DePaola said, expressing her outrage. Rep. Brent’s action allowed school and municipal officials to contact Gov. Mike DeWine, who killed the Hunting Valley amendment through a line-item veto.

The Orange school district includes Hunting Valley, Pepper Pike, Orange, Moreland Hills, Woodmere and slices of other communities.

Ms. DePaola attended Orange schools from kindergarten through 12th grade. Her father turned down a job opportunity in a new city to keep the children in the Orange schools, she said.

“I read what happened online. I’m reading and it’s about Orange and what Matt Dolan did and I read it again and I thought that it was the most absurd thing to do to one of the best schools in the state,” said Ms. DePaola, a retired teacher.

Residents who packed Rep. Brent’s town hall meeting had other topics on their minds including gun control and reproductive rights. Rep. Brent said that successful gun control depends on the legislators.

“The likelihood of gun control will change when we change who the legislators are,” she said. “We have a lot of people whose lives are being jeopardized, even ours, right now. Not everyone looks at gun safety the same way we do.”

Rep. Brent, who represents Orange Village and Pepper Pike along with eight other communities, encouraged those in attendance to put pressure on their state senators and other legislators and demand common sense gun laws. She also reminded audience members that she held a press conference with Pepper Pike Mayor Richard Bain in May about gun safety. She said that she opposes House Bill 178, which would reduce requirements for background checks and concealed carry weapon permits.

“It makes me very uncomfortable that someone wants to take away the law on background checks and training,” Rep. Brent said. “Many people have never been around guns, everyone needs training.”

She encouraged her constituents to contact Speaker of the House Larry Householder, R-Glenford, and the members of the Federalism Committee to ask for hearings on gun control bills.

Rep. Brent received applause when she shared her thoughts on reproductive rights and access to healthcare.

“There is an attack on women’s reproductive rights. I voted against what we call the complete abortion ban,” she said. “Everyone needs their own options. I cannot tell you what to do with your body or your family, and I don’t think the state should be making those choices either.”

She also said that she is working to repeal the pink tax, a luxury tax that is assessed on feminine hygiene products. In addition, Rep. Brent gave a few legislative updates, stating that her communities in Cuyahoga County received funding for psychiatric care, lead safety, literacy programs and more in the two-year state budget.

Julie Hullett has been a reporter for the Chagrin Valley Times since August of 2018 and covers Gates Mills, Hunting Valley, Moreland Hills, Orange, Pepper Pike and Woodmere. She graduated from John Carroll University with a journalism degree in 2018.

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