Ohio Auditor Proposes $10 Million for East Cleveland if City Agrees to Merger with Cleveland

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by Nick Castele

Millions of dollars could be available for East Cleveland under a plan proposed by Ohio Auditor Dave Yost. But that money would only be available if voters agree to being annexed by neighboring Cleveland.

Yost, a Republican, is floating the idea of spending $10 million to upgrade East Cleveland’s roads, bridges and emergency equipment. He said that would help Cleveland take care of the suburb’s major infrastructure needs.

“All you have to do is drive down Euclid Avenue to know what I’m talking about,” Yost said, “if you go take a four-wheel-drive vehicle, because the road is daggum near impassible.”

The idea comes with some strings attached. An advisory board would oversee the money, and approve spending requests from Cleveland.

Yost declared East Cleveland in fiscal emergency in 2012. Under the watch of state officials, the city has slashed its budget and anticipates more cuts as revenues continue to fall.

State lawmakers would have the final say on the proposal, Yost said.  

“It’s going to be up to the legislature, with many competing needs around the state, what number they think is appropriate,” he said.

East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton said he supported the idea.

“As we work to quantify the capital needs, I would think that there’d be some discussion of the number in terms of the dollars made available to us,” he said. 

The auditor’s suggestion hinges on whether East Cleveland agrees to a merger. Last year, Norton submitted petitions to begin annexation negotiations with Cleveland. East Cleveland City Council resisted, and an aide to the mayor sued.

State Rep. Kent Smith, a Democrat whose district includes East Cleveland, is among many local officials waiting for Judge Michael Russo’s ruling in the case.  

“That’s going to determine the legality of whether or not the merger process can move forward,” Smith said.

In the end, the question of annexation would go to East Cleveland voters. Cleveland City Council would have the option of voting to accept the plan or to put it on the ballot. 

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