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Group: Transparency key to lower Ohio property taxes

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(The Center Square) – A Columbus-based policy group believes the first step in reducing Ohio property taxes should be transparency.

The policy memo comes when people throughout the state are angered by the rise of property taxes, some nearly as high as near 50%.

The Buckeye Institute Research Fellow Greg Lawson thinks any move to reduce property taxes will only start “if and when taxpayers understand their local governments’ inefficiencies and demand changes.”

He said the only way for that to happen is to give taxpayers better and more transparent information.

“The Ohio General Assembly hopes to reduce property tax volatility by legislatively changing how localities calculate property taxes. And some state lawmakers want to freeze property taxes for senior citizens,” Lawson said in his memo. “But these are temporary measures at best. Real solutions require local action, and that action will only occur if and when taxpayers understand their local governments’ inefficiencies and demand changes. For that, taxpayers need better, more transparent information.”

Lawson pointed to Franklin County as an example of providing more and better information to taxpayers.

He thinks the county’s levy estimator, which allows property owners to see an itemized list of all levies on a property, the levy rates and the revenue each levy generates, could be taken statewide.

He said the tool “helps citizens better understand what their local governments cost, so they can make better, more informed decisions the next time a levy appears on the ballot.”

The plan comes as lawmakers debate legislation allowing the state Department of Taxation to use a three-year average of property taxes to assess yearly taxes.

The bill quickly became a reality after recent projections of steep property tax increases in 13 counties.

It passed the House last week despite objections from county auditors and now waits on a committee assignment in the Senate.

Also, a group of Ohio economists responded to a survey last week that said changing from a property tax to a land use tax could spur development across the state.

The idea is similar to one currently being debated in Detroit, where city leaders believe a change would also lead to lower taxes. Under a land value tax, property taxes would be levied based on the value of the underlying land and not on any buildings or other improvements at the site.

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