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Friday, July 5th, 2013

Property owners to pay more after state ends rollback

By Shelley Grieshop
COLUMBUS - Local residents likely will pay more property taxes starting in 2014 when the state stops subsidizing area levies.
An item in Ohio Gov. John Kasich's $62 billion, two-year budget removes a 12.5 percent rollback on property taxes the state has paid toward local levies since the 1970s. The measure removes the rollback for all new and replacement levies, effective in 2014, according to Mercer County Auditor Randy Grapner.
The county currently has five levies set to appear on the November ballot, according to the board of elections. Two are countywide levies - developmental disabilities (Cheryl Ann programs), 1.94 mills, and council on aging, 0.7 mills. The others are fire levies for the townships of Blackcreek, 1.25 mills; Franklin, 1 mill; and Jefferson, 1.5 mills.
The filing deadline to get an issue on the ballot is Aug. 7.
Grapner is concerned about the possible reaction by voters to higher property taxes.
"If my taxes are going up, how likely will I be to vote for another tax levy in the future?" he asked.
Actions in recent years by state legislators to reduce Ohio's debt have included major cuts in local government funding and an increase in new levies at the polls.
"We're going to continue to see more and more local levies if we want to continue to receive the services we now offer," Grapner explained.
Supporters of the tax change say it eliminates what was essentially a contribution from state taxpayers who had no say over the levies. The state "essentially subsidized property owners' taxes with income and sales taxes paid by all Ohioans," explained Ohio Department of Taxation spokesman Gary Gudmundson.
During last week's budget debate, state Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, defended the GOP-led legislature's decision to lift the rollback, saying he routinely quizzes constituents on two state tax issues.
"The first question I ask them is, 'Anybody who can tell me what they pay per year in state sales tax to the nearest hundred dollars, I'll eat my hat,'" Seitz said. "Nobody knows what they pay to the nearest hundred dollars in state sales tax. Nobody."
"The second question I say is, 'How many of you nice folks know that the state of Ohio is paying 12.5 percent of your property tax for you before you get the bill?' That's darn near nobody." Seitz continued. "Nobody knew we didn't; they're certainly not going to know we quit doing it."
According to state estimates, elimination of the rollback will mean an increase of just $4.38 a year - 37 cents a month - for the owner of a $100,000 house. But that estimate does not take into account that many residents may pay multiple property-tax levies to their local schools, library and county or township.
Backers of the package of tax changes in the budget - including the Association for Aging and the Ohio Farm Bureau - argue that showing property owners the real cost of the levies they pay will make the system more transparent and fair.
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