Tax Levies on the Ballot….Are they clear to you?

We have been interested in determining if taxpayers know what they are voting for when they see a request for a tax levy on the ballot.    We will use the Morley Library’s continuous (read: FOREVER) renewal levy that is being placed on the November 2018 ballot as our example.

Morley Library Resolution for Continuous Levy

There are only two political sub-divisions that can put a levy on the ballot without the approval of the Board of Commissioners.  They are Lakeland Community College and the Metroparks.  All other political sub-divisions must get approval from the Lake County Commissioners.

The political sub-division will use the Lake County Auditor to determine the estimated tax revenue to be received from the proposed millage rate.  The political sub-division will determine the type of levy (emergency, continuous, etc) that they want to request.

Page 2 of the Morley Library Levy shows the language that will be placed on the ballot.

Note the wording to be placed on the ballot:
“A renewal of a tax for the benefit of Morley Library, Lake County Library District, for the purpose of current expenses of Morley Library at the rate not exceeding One Mill (1.0) for each dollar of valuation, which amounts to ten cents ($.10) for each one hundred dollars ($100) of valuation, for a continuing period of time, commencing in 2019, first due in calendar year 2020.”

It is my guess that not 10% of the voters know by reading that statement how much it will cost them on an annual basis.  It can be very deceptive language for the uninformed voter. There are two calculations in that ballot statement. Here is how to interpret them:

  1. “Rate not exceeding One Mill for each dollar of valuation”:
    Assuming a home valuation of $100,000 x 35% = $35,000 / 1 mill (.001) = $35.00 per year
  2. “Which amounts to ten cents for each one hundred dollars of valuation”:
    Assuming a home valuation of $100,000 x 35% = $35,000 / $100 = 350 x $.10 = $35.00 per year
  3. Do not forget your Housing Affordability Threshold = $35.00 / .30 = $116.67….The taxpayer must realize an increase in their annual income of $116.67 per year per $100,000 of home valuation, in order not to come closer to their HAT.  [30% of their annual income for mortgage, utilities and real estate taxes]
  4. Note the phrase “for a continuing period of time” –  a very, soft, non-aggressive way of saying “continuous”, or as we like to say “FOREVER“.  Morley Library does not have to come back to the taxpayers on this renewal levy that has now been changed to “FOREVER“.

To be completely transparent, the political sub-division does not write the levy, and the Lake County lawyers must use templates provided by the Ohio Revised Code.

In the fourth paragraph of the first page there is this statement:

“……….determined that the amount of taxes which can be raised within the Ten Mill limitation by levies on the current tax duplicate will be insufficient to provide an adequate amount for the purpose of current expenses…..”

This deals with Inside Millage versus Outside Millage.  Inside Millage is a State law established when the State was formed, that permitted a 1% tax (this equals 10 mills) on property throughout the State.  Outside millage is voted on by the taxpayers.

The County Commissioners are in control of which political sub-division gets any inside millage.  Currently, the inside millage stands at 8.9 leaving 1.1 mills that seem to be available.  Ah, but this is where the Commissioner control the purse strings.  The inside millage used to be 10 mills, but it was reduced by the County Commissioners to 8.9 when the Commissioners passed the sales tax.  However, they have reserved the balance of 1.1 to be used at their discretion.  So there is room under the inside millage, but the ballot language says that there is not really room under the inside millage….got it?….neither do I….it reminds me a little of the 3 card monte trick.   I can only describe it as “government math”….logic not required.

Stay tuned, there will be a lot more written about Morley Library and the entire Lake County library system.
Isaiah 5:20


Categories: Lake, Real Estate Taxes


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