Columbus, OH – Proponents today delivered over 5,100 signatures to the Franklin County Board of Elections to place an effective repeal of the March school levy tax increase on the November ballot. So long as 3,585 of these signatures are declared valid, the initiative would effectively repeal the 6.71 mil tax increase narrowly approved in March, after taxpayers defeated a similar measure at the November 2011 general election.
Proponents’ internal validation tests indicate that over 90 percent of collected signatures are valid – - an amount well in excess of the needed threshold.
The effort, spearheaded by Taxpayers for Westerville Schools and represented by the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, marks the inaugural action of the 1851 Center in facilitating taxpayers’ use of 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.
Inundated with interest, volunteer Westerville residents gathered the 5,100-plus signatures in just three months, despite virtually no financial resources.
“Westerville residents’ achievement today is an inspiring example for taxpayers around the state.” said 1851 Center Executive Director Maurice Thompson. “Disingenuous Ohio school districts choose political gamesmanship over fiscal responsibility, placing tax hikes on the ballot at low-turnout elections. Tax rollback projects like this are an essential tool to fight back against this gamesmanship — by subjecting the tax increase to the general election ballot, when those who aren’t ‘on-the-take’ vote.”
The March 51-49 percent vote for the tax increase came just four months after a 61-39 defeat at the November 2011 general election. This measure will appear on the November 2012 general election ballot.
“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. Due in part to these special election tax increases, 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 March 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.
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 www.TaxpayersForWestervilleSchools.com.
The Center has vowed to defend the initiative at no cost to taxpayers.
October 4, 2012: Media Trackers: Westerville City Schools Secretly Coordinated Opposition to Tax Cut Issue
September 7, 2012: NBC4i: Ohio Taxpayer Group Wants Chance At Ballot
September 7, 2012: ThisWeek: Westerville tax-repeal effort goes to Supreme Court
August 21, 2012: Columbus Dispatch: Effort to repeal Westerville school levy makes ballot
August 8, 2012: Columbus Dispatch: Effort to repeal Westerville schools levy gets signatures aplenty