Council approves budget, tax rate

By BRIAN GRAVES
Posted 4/24/18

The Cleveland City Council unanimously passed the tax rate and budget for the new fiscal year and began eying options on how to proceed with a vigorous makeover of the downtown area.The tax rate …

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Council approves budget, tax rate

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The Cleveland City Council unanimously passed the tax rate and budget for the new fiscal year and began eying options on how to proceed with a vigorous makeover of the downtown area.

The tax rate remains at the current $2.06 and there are no fee increases in the new budget.

Dozens of infrastructure projects are now underway or in the pipeline waiting to proceed.

And, one of the keys to the puzzle may be finally close to being resolved.

City Manager Joe Fivas said city staff met with their counterparts at Whirlpool Corporate Real Estate last week about the company’s downtown properties.

“They are certainly looking for some input,” Fivas said. “They brought a number of people to hear what we had to say and we wanted to hear what they had to say.”

Fiavs said one of the things that may have slowed the process with Whirlpool is the company has been transitioning leadership in the Real Estate division.

“We had the chance to have both of them in the room and have a transfer of what we are trying to accomplish and what some of our timetables are,” he said. “We remain very encouraged by the discussions, but it’s now clearer than ever we need to develop a consistent conversation. It’s been kind of ‘herky-jerky.’ We need to find a way to get into the room and start making some decisions.”

Fivas said the goal is to find a point where the city can “make a good faith proposal on how the property should be redeveloped.”

“I think they would look at anything we gave them,” he said.

Fivas said the city is “blessed” to have the federal, state and local economies be “really strong.”

“We have a great group of community leaders, we have some funding available, and there is a strong public interest in downtown,” Fivas said.

He informed the council that the consultants working on the plans for downtown had met with “hundreds.”

“They literally went door to door and met with visitors, stakeholders, and were tireless in getting data asking the easy questions and the hard questions,” Fivas said. “They were very impressed and agreed there was a lot of synergy and energy for downtown redevelopment.”

He also discussed the Downtown Pilot Redevelopment Program, where the state provides authority to local governments to provide a Payment in Lieu of Taxes for housing projects.

“The state gives this authority to the local Housing, Health and Education Boards to review and recommend housing pilots to the governing body,” Fivas said, noting he has been approached by several projects who would be interested.

He also spoke of the option of using tax increment financing, a method used by local governments to pay for community improvements with future tax revenues.

“Do you want a motion at 3 o'clock (a reference to the council's voting session later in the day) or a thumbs up now?” asked Councilman Bill Estes. “I am excited about this.”

The council voted to ask city staff to begin discussions about the PILOT program and TIF programs with the appropriate boards.

Council also heard news that the aging and weather-worn Cherokee Cheftain, currently residing outside the Museum Center at Five Points, appears headed for a long-awaited makeover.

Former Museum Center at Five Points Director Rufus Triplett told the council on Monday the artist who created the piece which has become so identified with the museum is returning to do the work.

“During my tenure at the museum, I had endeavored to contact Peter Toth, who created the Chieftain, and I finally heard from him last week,” Triplett said.

Triplett said Toth was planning to come to Cleveland later this summer or early in the fall.

“I provided him with [current Museum Director] Janice Neyland’s name and Joe Fivas’ name as well,” he said. “He will work with them on what he sees would be enhancing what you want to do to preserve the Chieftain.”

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