On May 7, 2012 taxpayers for Westerville Schools, with the representation of the 1851 Center,commenced circulation of an initiative petition to repeal the 6.71 mil tax increase narrowly approved in March after taxpayers defeated a similar measure at the November 2011 general election.
The Westerville effort marks the inaugural action of the 1851 Center in assisting taxpayers in using a previously obscure section of the Ohio Revised Code to lower their school district tax burdens, while forcing Ohio school districts to control spending and reign in labor costs rather than raising taxes.
“For years, many disingenuous Ohio school districts have chosen political gamesmanship over fiscal responsibility, placing tax hikes on the ballot at low-turnout elections where their own constituents’ voices are disproportionately heard,” said 1851 Center Executive Director Maurice Thompson. “The goal of our tax rollback project is to help taxpayers across the state fight back against this gamesmanship by subjecting the tax increase to the general election ballot.”
The 51-49 percent vote for the tax increase came just four months after a 61-39 defeat at the general election.
“We are particularly pleased to begin this project in Westerville, the highest-taxed school district in central Ohio, and also the longtime home of our Governor,” added Thompson. “We hope that the Governor and other state officials take note of these local tax abuses and reform the policy statewide. Until that time, we will vigorously address this issue.”
The 1851 Center has called on state officials to reduce the number of times per year school districts may place tax increases on the ballot from three to one – – the general election held each November. Ohioans’ local government tax burden is the sixth highest in the nation, according to the Ohio Department of Taxation.
Westerville taxpayers have proposed specific cuts that would alleviate the need for the tax hike, noting that administrators enjoy luxurious benefits packages, the average teacher’s salary of over $65,000 (trending towards over $80,000 by 2014-15 at current spending rates) is amongst the highest in the state and significantly higher than salaries of average Westerville residents, and the district pays the salary of Westerville Education Association union officials to do union work that does not benefit the district or the taxpayers.
For the measure to appear on the November ballot, volunteers will need to submit 3,911 valid signatures to the Franklin and Delaware County Boards of Elections by August 9, 2012.
The 1851 Center’s guide on how taxpayers can roll back tax levies can be found here.
More information on Westerville School District finances and the tax repeal effort is available at TaxpayersForWestervilleSchools.com.
May 7, 2012: The Columbus Dispatch: Westerville Group wants to Pare Levy
May 7, 2012: The Republic: Constitutional Law Center helps Taxpayers
May 7, 2012: The Star Beacon: Ohio Law Center helps Taxpayers
May 7, 2012: 10TV: Group Collecting Signatures to Repeal Levy
May 7, 2012: Brian Wilson Radio Show
May 8, 2012: Ohio Votes: Effort Underway to Repeal Levy
May 8, 2012: NBC4: TV news coverage video
May 9, 2012: This Week: Group Seeks to Roll Back Levy
May 10, 2012: Ohio Liberty Coalition: Taxpayers Attempting to Repeal Narrowly Passed Levy
May 10, 2012: 610 WTVN: Maurice Thompson’s radio interview with Joel Riley
May 10, 2012: Media Trackers: Taxpayer Advocates Seek to Rein in School Spending