Thursday, July 28, 2005


Cleveland schools use owners of tax-abatement property in ad for tax levy

CLEVELAND -- Leaders of the campaign promoting a proposed levy that would raise $46 million annually for the city school district probably wish they had done more research on the tax status of a couple featured in one of their campaign ads.

The couple featured in ads for Tuesday's school vote said in the ad that they had to carefully look at issues such as taxes before buying their home. The problem is that they live in a home with a tax abatement.

Ilona and Mike Emmerth, who volunteered to pose before their Cleveland home for campaign literature, say they didn't know that most of their home's property taxes have been waived until 2011.

"For what it's worth, I thought tax abatement only applied to new houses," Mike Emmerth said Wednesday.

The Emmerths' home, purchased for $152,000 in 2002, has a tax abatement on $111,000 in renovations done before the purchase. That saves the couple $2,219 annually on a property tax bill that would otherwise be $3,031, leaving a payment of about $812, said Robin Thomas, chief deputy county treasurer.

Campaign manager Chris Carmody said organizers tried to find a couple who pay a full tax bill and they thought the Emmerths fit that description. He said, however, that the mistake doesn't detract from the message that young people are buying homes in the city.

"Organizers tried to find a couple who pay a full tax bill"... it would never have occurred to me that you would have to look for somebody who pays their property taxes, but apparently, they must be hard to find in Cleveland.

Here's a suggestion: don't give people a $2,219 annual tax break in exchange for buying a house. Then you won't have quite so much tax shortfall to make up.

The folks pushing the levy want to get the message out that "young people are buying homes in the city"... but they aren't paying property taxes, so how much good is it doing the city? How many more of these residential tax abatement properties are out there? What is the cost in lost revenue to the city? And how much additional burden does it place on those who ARE paying their property taxes? And finally, if the City of Cleveland thinks it can afford to hand out huge tax breaks like this on purely residential property (it's not like this is a business that is going to employ people), doesn't that suggest that maybe property taxes are already way too high?

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