Tax and Spin- Part 5: The “Place” Where You Raise Your Own Taxes


The replacement levy, authorized by the Ohio General Assembly in 1990 (Ohio Revised Code, Section 5705.192), is a specific kind of property tax that has been used for the purpose of generating more money for a government subdivision or agency. Because it replaces an existing tax, it is a new tax. It is not a renewal tax.

Replacement levies have generated large amounts of revenue. Often that is not because voters have been so generous; rather, voters have been misled and are confused.

The problem with replacement levies is that the proposed millage is compared with the old, no-longer-in-effect, originally voted millage of the existing levy. This problem is reflected on the ballot. The old voted millage is not always shown or designated as such on the ballot; sometimes it is merely implied, as in Ballot Examples No. 1 and No. 3 below. To be clear and correct, the ballot should compare the proposed millage to the effective millage of the existing levy because that is the comparison that reflects what would happen to the property owner’s tax with passage of the levy.

Some local government officials and other levy proponents are well aware of the problem and have taken advantage of the deceptive ballot language and have put out misleading levy campaign advertisements, articles, letters to the editor, and speeches. For example, they have emphasized “no increase in millage” or “reduction in millage” by using the false comparison of the proposed millage with the irrelevant voted millage of the existing levy. They have even said “no increase in tax,” which is untrue no matter what millage is used. Unfortunately, some other public officials throughout the state still do not understand replacement levies. Also unfortunate is that newspapers and other media do insufficient investigative reporting and rarely publish information about tax issues other than what is handed to them by taxing authorities, including those seeking a tax increase.

Replacement levies are presented to voters in three ways: “replacement,” “replacement and increase,” and “replacement and decrease.” Not obvious from those terms is that all three are used to increase a tax. The operation of each and the reason they are so confusing to voters can best be shown with examples of actual tax issue ballots. The ballots reproduced in this treatise have been presented to voters in Greene County. The levies, ballot examples, and resultant voter confusion are typical of that found all over the state.

Next–Part 6: Eliminating confusion, Step 1

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