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Policy group believes streamlining local government key to tax relief

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(The Center Square) – One of the best ways to ease the burden on property taxpayers in Ohio is to reduce local taxing agencies, an Ohio policy group told members of the Legislature.

Greg Lawson, a research fellow at The Buckeye Institute, told the Joint Committee on Property Tax Review and Reform the state has an “oversupply of local government,” which gives Ohio the 12th-highest local tax burden as a percentage of income in the nation.

“Local officials are friends, neighbors, and respected community members, making them responsive to constituents in ways that state and federal officials are not; but if the state does not begin to untie the Gordian Knot of Ohio’s local government structure, then committee recommendations and General Assembly bills will remain unable to solve the perennial problem,” Lawson said.

The state has 924 cities and villages, 1,308 townships, more than 600 school districts and 88 counties. Each can collect property taxes.

Lawson said technology can streamline local services, saving taxpayers’ money. He offered three suggestions, including passing a current bill that would allow underperforming villages to be dissolved more easily.

He also said county commissions should approve of levies before they can be placed on a ballot, and property tax breaks should be limited for developers and special interest groups.

He also reiterated previous recommendations, such as:

• No more unfunded mandates on local governments.

• Spend state resources on specific, critical needs like public safety and core infrastructure.

• Share state revenues with local communities in dire need.

• Incentivizing local governments to share local resources or consolidate.

• More spending transparency to improve local accountability.

“Overcoming 200 years of inertia to untie the tangled knot of Ohio’s local government structure will not be easy,” Lawsons said. “But it must be done. Ohio property owners deserve a more efficient, effective, and inexpensive system.”

The committee’s hearing was part of a two-year effort in the Legislature to examine statewide property taxes.

Bills to clarify ballot language, create a property tax circuit breaker and limit local governments from placing levies on the ballot have been introduced.

None have passed both the House and Senate.

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