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Tax and Spin- Part 10: Conclusion-Accountability the Key

This entry is part 10 of 11 in the series Understanding Property Tax Levies

taxOhio does combine a “renewal” levy and an ordinary “additional” levy into one single vote, and although renewal-plus-additional-levy issues and ballots are straightforward – unlike replacement levies and ballots – they still deny voters a real choice. In this writer’s opinion, such combination votes ought to be illegal; renewals and additionals should be in separate votes. Thus, the replacement levy should also be illegal.

A partial solution to the replacement levy problem – one that addresses only the ballot language – would be to change the ballot wording to show the true tax increase. That is, it must show at least the proposed millage and the effective millage of the levy to be replaced and in no way indicate a tax decrease, including in the ballot title. (The Revised Code prescribes the wording for the body of the ballot but does not address the title, which is as deceptive for replacement levies as the body and is more noticeable to the voter.)

Repealing the replacement levy or changing ballot wording would be done by the Ohio General Assembly – with much encouragement from citizens. Although at least some of the legislators are aware of the deceptive ballot language, any action by them thus far has been inadequate to remedy the problem.

The fact that state lawmakers are very greatly influenced by local officials cannot be stressed too strongly. Local officials have had much to do with getting the legislature to create the types of levies described in this treatise. Replacement levies, in particular, have been a cash cow that local governments will likely lobby to keep, should a legislator introduce a bill to repeal their existence (no bill has been introduced as of this writing). That means that many citizens must be able to understand replacement levies and care enough about fairness that they can and will explain to their representatives and senators the unjustness of these levies and will encourage them to actively support the repeal of the law or change in the law that authorizes the levies. Unfortunately, in addition to possible pressure from local officials, another hindrance to getting the law changed is what this writer has found: some legislators do not understand replacement levies.

Because repeal of the replacement levy law or even a change in ballot language could take months or years – or might not happen at all – informed citizens should also work at the local level by educating other citizens, including their local officials, and supporting only those candidates that pledge not to use replacement levies. Citizens should also vote against all replacement levies, no matter how desirable the intended use of the funds might be. Only if the levies repeatedly fail will local officials stop using them and again make more use of the simple “additional” levy when they truly need funds for appropriate services.

It is the hope of this writer that Ohioans will hold their government accountable – that they will learn about taxation and individual tax issues, that they will educate others, that they will work to eliminate unfair and deceptive taxes, and that they will support only those candidates for office who are honest enough to do the same.

You can access and print a copy of Carolyn’s full article here. Put this information into the hands of your family, friends and neighbors.

Series NavigationTax and Spin- Part 9: Some Solutions

Posted in Economics, Education, Private Property, Public Policy Principles News, Public Policy Radar, Taxation.

2 Responses

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  1. Matt Miller says

    Great series. Well done. I remember writing a piece a few years ago about the replacement levy tactic that school districts use to increase taxes. There was a proposed a slight decrease in the millage on a school levy in my district. This made people think that it is a tax reduction. At the time that wrote the piece, I thought that the only reason for this was that there was some law which prevented a levy from being repealed for a certain number of years if it had been changed–even slightly. (That is what the news media had reported. There was a repeal of another levy on the same ballot.) The school district campaigned against both issues.

  2. Camp Director says

    Thanks, Matt. I’ll pass this message on to the author, Carolyn Blow. She worked on the research for this series literally for years. It shouldn’t be this confusing.