Government property tax restrictions debated in Ohio House committee

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(The Center Square) – Taxpayers could see more transparency in property tax bills, and local governments could be limited in placing levies on the ballot, according to a bill currently being debated in the Ohio House of Representatives.

House Bill 344 has put most of the state’s taxing entities and business groups against each other in committee testimony, but a Columbus-based policy group thinks the bill and other tools under consideration are wins for taxpayers.

Greg Lawson, research fellow at The Buckeye Institute, told the House Ways and Means Committee during the bill’s fourth hearing the legislation could help ease taxpayer aggravations by removing local government’s ability to place replacement levies on ballots and encourage more plain language on potential tax hikes.

“Although the bill will not resolve the most critical issues driving recent tax increases, including the size, scope, and structure of local governments, it does lay a foundation for building broader reforms while protecting local taxpayers in the shorter term,” Lawson testified.

Taxing entities, however, don’t want to give up the ability to put replacement levies on the ballot, saying flexibility is important for local government.

CCAO Senior Policy Analyst Jon Honeck told the committee the County Commissioners Association of Ohio “is opposed to HB344 because we believe it is important to preserve the flexibility of local governments to enact replacement levies with voter approval. Replacement levies are used to bring the effective rate of a levy back to its original voted level. They are typically used when a levy is about to expire after its five or 10-year term. In this way, the county agency receives increased revenue as a result of valuation growth in order to keep up with inflation and increased service needs.”

The Ohio Chamber of Commerce supports the bill and calls it one step toward providing more tax clarity for Ohioans.

“The system only favors those with a keen interest in the topic or who spend a career in the field,” testified Tony Long of the Ohio Chamber. “Hopefully, HB344 is just the beginning of a process to make the property tax structure more understandable and clear for all Ohioans.”

At the same time, the bill would stop allowing taxing entities from challenging property valuations.

Lawson said the Council on State Taxation notes that Ohio is one of only a few states allowing property owners and government to challenge the value.

“Local governments challenging property valuations unfairly burdens taxpayers – even if unsuccessful – and makes property transactions needlessly more expensive for Ohio businesses,” Lawson said.

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