Daily Court Reporter - News Overhaul to property-tax language bases tax on value of $100,000 home, not mills
Overhaul to property-tax language bases tax on value of $100,000 home, not mills
KEITH ARNOLD, Daily Reporter Staff Writer
A Monclova Republican has resurrected a plan approved by the Ohio House of Representatives during the previous session of the General Assembly that is designed to simplify the sometimes confusing and inconsistent language used on ballots proposing tax levies.
House Ways and Means Committee members listened to testimony relating to Rep. Derek Merrin's House Bill 76 earlier this week during a second hearing.
"The legislation fixes three flaws in ballot language," Merrin began. "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, all tax levies will list the estimated revenue the levy will generate annually.
"Third, it requires all text size and the use of bolded words to be uniform."
It was in 1939 that state law required millage expressed in a dollar amount related to $100 of property valuation, the lawmaker explained.
"It was a great idea," he said. "This is necessary because the mills system is complicated."
For example, Merrin offered, most voters don't know what 4.5 mills, 6 mills, or 9.9 mills levy means and putting a dollar amount in ballot language expressing the impact is important.
Home values have changed, however, rendering dollar amounts expressed in ballot language useless, if not misleading.
"To compound the problem, $100 taxable value is actually $287 market value due to property taxed at 35 percent," the real estate professional-cum legislator noted. "Without that knowledge, voters are automatically misled with current ballot language."
Merrin said, furthermore, it has become standard practice by media outlets, local governments and political advertisements to express levies in relation to a residential property's $100,000 market value.
Current law requires only some levies to provide the revenue amount the levy will generate annually, an inconsistency in law.
"County auditors provide government entities with estimates on how much a levy will generate," the lawmaker said. "This legislation requires the estimate be included in ballot language."
According to analysis of HB 76 provided by the Ohio Legislative Service Commission, the bill would require election notices and ballot language to continue to display the millage rate per $1 of taxable value for each type of property tax levy.
The language, however, is to be standardized to "taxable value."
Ballot language that is prescribed for some levies currently employs terms, such as "valuation" or "tax valuation," while language for others does not specify what value the millage rate is based on.
Another change: Dollar amounts in ballot language are to be displayed numerically.
"Under the bill, the notice and language would continue to convey the 12-mill rate for each $1 of taxable value but, instead of the $1.20 per $100 of taxable value rate, would state that the millage rate translates to $420 for each $100,000 of fair market value," Sam Benham, an attorney for the commission, wrote.
The third part of Merrin's fix calls for uniform ballot language.
"For some school levies and bond issues, current law mandates the purpose of a levy or issue text be bolded and double the size of the surrounding text," he said. "Other levies do not have this requirement.
"The bill removes this mandate so all levies and bond text size is uniform."
He said the doubling of the text size of certain words makes ballot language longer and can cause extra pages to be printed.
"Ballot language should be clear and concise," Merrin concluded. "Tax levies and bond issues should be transparent to voters.
"A calculator should not be necessary when voting."
Eleven fellow House members have signed on as cosponsors of the bill, which had not been scheduled a third hearing at time of publication.
Date Published: April 10, 2019