COLUMBUS, Ohio – Multiple government lobbying groups, including the Ohio Association of School Business Officials (OASBO), the Ohio School Boards Association, the Ohio Library Association, the Ohio Township Association and others spoke in opposition to House Bill 76 in the Senate General Government and Agency Review Committee on Wednesday. The bill “Enacts the Ballot Uniformity and Transparency Act for tax levies.”
State Representative Derek Merrin (R-Monclova Township) introduced HB 76 in February. It passed the House on October 24 despite all the Democrats and five Republicans, Reps. Brian Baldridge (R-Winchester), Robert Cupp (R-Lima), Gayle Manning (R-North Ridgeville), Tom Patton (R-Strongsville) and Gary Scherer (R-Circleville), voting ‘no.’
“We are here today representing our collective memberships, all of which have to rely on local property taxes for support. We understand the proposed changes in HB 76 are intended to allow voters to better understand the effects a proposed levy will have on their property taxes. However, we believe the changes in HB 76 will actually cause confusion and misunderstanding by voters,” Shaner said.
“By necessity, ballot language is technical in nature and not meant to be an accurate estimate of the taxes owed by each individual taxpayer should the levy pass,” she added.
Lastly, Shaner and the group suggested individual taxpayers can get information about how a levy will impact their specific property by contacting their County Auditor.
“…If individual voters wish to better understand the impact of a proposed levy on their specific property, the County Auditor can calculate an estimate based on all relevant factors.”
The Ohio Association of County Boards of Developmental Disabilities were represented by Erich Bittner. He also opposed the bill. In his testimony Bittner claimed, “The term ‘fair market value’ is a tax term that is unclear to the average voter.”
The final opponent to speak against the bill on Wednesday was the Metropolitan Libraries of Ohio.
The libraries’ representative claimed, “By requiring ballot language to describe the impact of a proposed levy on the fair market value of a property per $100,000 dollars of that value, this bill causes more uncertainty, not less. This method will not accurately and clearly provide the voter the correct amount of their new property taxes based on passage of the levy, nor should the ballot be used for that purpose.”
Sponsor testimony was heard in the Senate on November 13. Merrin told the General Government Agency Review Committee, “The legislation fixes three flaws in ballot language. First, it updates antiquated ballot language by expressing millage in terms of $100,000 of market value rather than in $100 increments of tax value. Secondly, requires all tax levies list the estimated revenue they will generate annually. Third, it requires all text size and the use of bolded words be uniform.”
He explained, “Ballot language should be clear and concise. Tax levies and bond issues should be transparent to voters. A calculator should not be necessary when voting. House Bill 76 seeks to update inconsistent ballot language that make it much easier for voters to ascertain the fiscal impact of levies and bonds.”
Additional supporters of the bill included Americans for Prosperity, Ohio Manufactured Homes Association and Ohio Real Estate Investors Association.
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Beth Lear is a reporter at The Ohio Star. Follow Beth on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Derek Merrin on the Floor of the Ohio State House” by the Ohio State House of Representatives.