Tuesday, June 04, 2002

Mariemont board wants input on failed tax increase

May 7 defeat was first ever for school district

By Cindy Kranz, ckranz@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MARIEMONT — Mariemont educators will host three community meetings this week to discuss last month's failed school levy.

        “The focus of the meetings is to communicate with the public to find out what their feelings are and what we can do about it,” said Marie Huenefeld, board president.

        Chances are a proposed tax increase will be back on the ballot this year, but that decision has not been made, she said.

        “We will not come back at 9.95 (mills). There's no way,” Mrs. Huenefeld said. “I'm only one board member, but in my opinion, it has to be a lower amount.”

        Mariemont City School District had never lost a levy until May 7. The last levy approved was a 9.95-mill increase in 1998. The levy on last month's ballot would have raised property taxes another $304 annually on a $100,000 home.

        The levy was defeated in large part because of organized opposition from the Mariemont Apartment Association, with support from the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Apartment Association (GCNKAA). About 39 percent of Mariemont residents and about 20 percent districtwide are apartment dwellers.

        Apartment owners thought the levy was too much and would cause taxes to soar. Apartment buildings with four or more apartments are taxed at a commercial rate 41 percent higher than residential, and they get the same rollbacks as residential, according to a state law that owners want changed.

        As a result, apartment owners encouraged tenants to vote, telling them rents could increase if the levy passed.

        Ron Hirth, a renter who has lived in Mariemont since 1993, paid attention.

        “Future levies will fail as the renters are mobilized unless the taxing practices are changed or the board is satisfied with smaller increases,” he said.

        Mrs. Huenefeld said she'd like to help apartment owners change tax laws, offering an army of volunteers to write state legislators.

        “I would rather help them reduce that rate somewhat if there is a way and give them some tax relief, than have them organize against us everytime,” she said.

        Meanwhile, Mariemont educators are exploring budget cuts. “We're going to do the best we can to make cuts that do not affect children in the classroom,” Mrs. Huenefeld said.

        Community meetings are at 7:30 p.m. today in Fairfax Elementary, Wednesday in Mariemont Elementary and Thursday in Terrace Park Elementary.

       E-mail ckranz@enquirer.com


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