By Kevin Kelley
The Westlake City Schools’ 5.9-mill operating levy, which failed by 44 votes in May, would cost property owners 14 percent more if passed in November.
That’s because the state biennial budget, passed at the end of June, included a provision to eliminate the state’s rollback for new taxes.
For decades, the state government had picked up 12.5 percent of property taxes and will continue to do so for existing taxes. But the pickup ends for any property taxes approved in November.
The defeated May operating levy sought an additional $180.69 annually for every $100,000 of property value beginning in 2014. To raise the same $8 million annually, the same 5.9-mill levy would cost $206.50 a year.
Although the rollback amount is 12.5 percent, the same levy would cost property owners 14.29 percent more because of the way the tax calculations work out, district Treasurer Mark Pepera said.
The budget passed by the Republican-led state legislature and hailed by Gov. John Kasich will phase in an income tax cut of 10 percent over three years, but increase the state sales tax rate from 5.5 to 5.75 percent. In addition, business owners counting profits as income will receive a 50 percent tax cut on up to $250,000.
The homestead exemption, which protects $25,000 of property value from taxation for Ohioans 65 or older or with disabilities, will continue for those now receiving it. But in the future, only those earning less than $30,000 annually will qualify for the exemption.
The Ohio Department of Taxation said 98 percent of taxpayers will pay less under the new state budget and tax plan.
The Westlake Board of Education has made no decision on whether or not to go back to voters in November for approval of an operating levy, but discussions are expected to intensify in coming weeks. The district already laid off six bus drivers for the coming school year. Superintendent Dan Keenan said more elements of the $930,000 in cuts he has proposed will come before the school board in the coming months.
Board members have just begun to review feedback they received in the form of an online survey and telephone poll as to why the May attempt failed.
However, at a June school board meeting before the state budget was approved, Pepera addressed the proposal to eliminate the state’s 12.5 percent pickup of property tax levies.
Associations representing public school boards, treasurers and superintendents expressed to state legislators their displeasure with the proposal, Pepera noted. A request was made to at least postpone the implementation until 2014, he said.
The Westlake school district treasurer personally contacted Westshore state Rep. Nan Baker to make his concerns known.
However, Baker defends the elimination of the 12.5 percent pickup, calling it “truth in taxation.” A press release in which Baker hails the new state budget and tax plan called the 12.5 percent pickup a “flawed taxpayer subsidy.” Up to now, Ohioans have been subsidizing 12.5 percent of property taxes they did not vote for in communities in which they do not reside, Baker told West Life.
Baker also noted that, in the new budget, Westshore public school districts – Fairview Park, North Olmsted, Rocky River, Westlake and Bay Village – will receive additional state funding.