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School taxes must be shared among districts, Ohio Supreme Court rules

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Posted at 9:30 AM, Sep 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-12 11:15:23-04

The following article was originally published in the Ohio Capital Journal and published on News5Cleveland.com under a content-sharing agreement.

COLUMBIA, Ohio — Two Cleveland-area schools will be required to share taxes based on a decades-old agreement, despite the deal not being approved by the state board of education, according to a ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court.

Warrensville Heights City School District and Beachwood City School District had been tied in a legal dispute over years of tax revenues, with Beachwood saying they were owed more than $5 million from their fellow school district.

The disagreement stems from the annexation by the Beachwood district of more than 400 acres of land that was part of of the Warrensville Heights district in 1990. Beachwood asked for the state school board’s approval of the land transfer at that time, starting years of negotiation between the two districts.

That agreement came in 1997, when a retired judge chosen as mediator between the schools recommended the land stay within the Warrensville Heights district, but that the tax revenues from the land be shared. Warrensville Heights would receive 70% of property tax revenues, and Beachwood would receive 30%.

Local school boards approved of the move, but the state board of education wasn’t asked to enter an opinion on the matter.

Beachwood came to the courts in 2018, claiming Warrensville Heights refused to share tax revenues from 2012 to 2017. At the time, a court sided with Warrensville in saying school officials in 1997 couldn’t “contract over the transfer of tax dollars” without state school board approval.

In the most recent ruling by the state supreme court, the majority of justices disagreed, saying state school board approval wasn’t required by law for the two districts to share tax revenue “and that the absence of such approval does not render the agreement unenforceable.”