(LFC Comments: We welcome another contributor to our forum. We appreciate Tom Hach and his Tax Working Group’s stance on property taxes. We give them a big “thumbs up” for the article.)
Our Unsustainable Property Taxes
Written by Tom Hach of Concord Township
In today’s divided America, there is still one issue on which most people agree regardless of party, race, age or sex, and that is property taxes are too high. Based on research conducted by the Tax Working Group (www.taxwg.com), it is not the taxpayer’s imagination which leads to the belief property taxes are too high. During a recent ten year period, property tax increases across Northeast Ohio outpaced inflation, while median household income and population both decreased. Adding to this challenging situation is the fact the percentage of people on fixed income is growing with the number of people 65 and over expect to grow by 74% by 2030, which is now just 10 years away.
Property taxes are made up of voter approved levies such as those for parks, roads, police, fire, schools, and so forth. When taken together, the trend in property taxes is unsustainable for the majority of taxpayers with those on fixed incomes being hit the hardest. Every time voters approve a new property tax, there are people on fixed income who have to sell their homes because the new taxes make them unaffordable. When the majority of voters approve a new levy, it too often results in a dynamic where neighbors are evicting neighbors from their homes.
The TWG is made up of concerned citizens from the local area who realize property tax levies of all kinds are unsustainable, and are too often passed by voters who do not have enough factual information on the true financial impact to their lives. Among the purposes of the TWG is to provide data and analysis to fill this critical knowledge gap and to aid voters as they determine how they will vote.
In the course of its research, the TWG found that Lake County has the third highest property taxes in Ohio as a percent of median household income with only Geauga and Cuyahoga counties respectively being higher based on information obtained from the website www.tax-rates.org. Additionally when compared to the rest of the nation, Lake County ranks 293rd highest for property taxes as a percentage of median income of the 3,143 counties in the United States, which puts the county in the top 9% for property tax burden nationwide.
From its website, the TWG acknowledges some level of government is necessary for the well-being of society, and that not all levy requests are unreasonable; however, too often the requesting government entity makes an emotional appeal for increased taxes which minimizes or ignores the true financial impact to taxpayers. While all taxing authorities make the case why their respective levies have merit, no organization, except the Tax Working Group, is looking at the overall impact of property taxes.
According to the TWG, government can also do a better job stretching taxpayer dollars by establishing shared service and mutual aid agreements with neighboring communities among other cost saving measures. Ultimately voters need to do a better job of educating themselves on the merits of levies they see on the ballot, while at the same time they need to hold elected officials accountable for spending taxpayer money more wisely.