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House bill includes levy wording changes, forbids levies in special elections

By Erich Hiner, OACB
Published Monday, November 27, 2017 3:00 pm

The Ohio House is considering a bill that would change how county boards of DD are required to describe annual tax rates in ballot language. Under HB 342 (sponsored by Rep. Derek Merrin – Fulton and Lucas counties), all levy-funded government entities would be required to explain millage in a way that would increase the perceived cost of levies to voters by requiring all levy ballot language to express annual tax rates in dollars and cents per $100,000 of valuation as opposed to dollars and cents per $100 of valuation (the current statutory requirement). 

This would effectively increase the “sticker price” of a levy by inflating the numbers used to demonstrate tax rates to the public. Under current law, a one-mill levy can be explained on local ballots as costing voters “ten cents ($0.10) for each one hundred dollars of valuation.” HB 342 would require that same rate to be expressed as “$100 per $100,000 of valuation.”

After reviewing the bill with members of the county board business manager leadership team, OACB believes this change would harm public support for levy ballot issues by misleading voters into overestimating levy costs. The bill arbitrarily requires all figures in example levy calculations to be multiplied by 1,000, giving voters the mistaken impression of a higher tax rate. Furthermore, the taxable valuation of most Ohio homes is substantially lower than $100,000, meaning most property owners would not pay as much as the inflated levy calculation would suggest.

HB 342 would also require all board of DD levies to be filed in primary or general elections. This would effectively prohibit county boards of DD from going to the ballot in special August elections, which is permitted under current statute. Boards must maintain the flexibility to file levy issues based on the financial needs of the agency and the people and communities they serve. While special election levies are uncommon, OACB cannot support any legislation that takes financial planning tools away from county boards.

OACB is communicating with other statewide associations and members of the business manager leadership team to coordinate opposition to the current version of HB 342 and will provide updates to members in future versions of the PolicyBrief.

Members with questions about this topic should contact Rick Black (rblack@oacbdd.org) at 614-431-0616.



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