LIMA — Just one more thing in a long list of whacks at local government.
That’s how Marion Township Trustee Jerry Gilden sees the state’s ending of subsidizing local property taxes.
As part of a larger deal on taxes in the state budget this year, the state is ending the rollback program and is placing an income limit on the homestead exemption for senior citizens. For 40 years, the state paid the first 10 percent of all property taxes and an additional 2.5 percent for owner-occupied properties. While the state will maintain the rollback on renewal levies, beginning with requests for new money or replacement levies in November, the subsidy is gone.
Gilden said he sees the change as a tax increase on local property taxpayers.
“It’s just another in a continued list of things the state has cut from local political subdivisions — CAT tax changes, elimination of the estate tax, local government cuts, other property tax changes,” said Gilden, chairman of the Allen County Township Trustee Association. “Park districts, townships, schools, municipalities, we’ve really taken a whammy.”
While the issue in Columbus was highly partisan (it passed without a single Democrat’s vote), it has nonpartisan consequences. Township government is about necessities, Gilden said, and a township’s budget is already tight.
“Roads, drainage, zoning. Just the basics of a local political subdivision,” Gilden said. “I’ve been a trustee almost 22 years and this is the toughest funding time I’ve seen. The state of Ohio balanced its budget on local political subdivisions’ backs and it’s very frustrating.”
In addition to the subsidy, GOP legislators also placed an income limit on the Homestead Exemption. In Ohio, the state pays the bill on the first $25,000 of home market value of properties owned by senior citizens. That will continue, but only for seniors who earn less than $30,000 a year.
Many local government officials were fighting against more cuts to the Local Government Fund and didn’t see the rollback change coming.
Elida schools Treasurer Joel Parker thinks that was by design.
“Our major concern with the whole issue is why weren’t we talking about this Jan. 1 instead of June 15, two weeks before a budget passed?” Parker said. “Tax policy is such a major change in Ohio, why weren’t we debating and hearing about this sooner?”
Elida schools will have a levy for additional money on the November ballot.
Any levy for new money is always a tough sell, and communicating this change and the fact that this new money will come with an additional percentage that taxpayers will be responsible for is another challenge, Parker said.
“It’s just another piece of the puzzle, the state shifting more of the burden,” Parker said. “We’ll need to communicate clearly what this piece of legislation did. It’s extremely difficult. Legislators get elected by cutting taxes, but that somehow has to be replaced at the local level, and in many cases we’re seen as a bad guy in the whole mess.”