Ohio School District Forced to Return $5.5 Million in Illegal Taxes to Taxpayers

Indian Hill Board of Education raised taxes without a vote, refused to refund money

school bus picking up kidsCincinnati, OH – After a five-plus year legal battle concluded with an Ohio Court denying all of its objections, the Indian Hill Exempted Village School District Board of Education late yesterday finally conceded that it must return the $5.5 million that it illegally assessed taxpayers after raising taxes without a public vote in 2010.

The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law’s victory on behalf of a certified class of all school district property taxpayers comes nearly one year after the 1851 Center prevailed in striking down the tax increase before the Ohio Supreme Court. After the Court’s unanimous December 2014 decision, the school district still refused to return the funds, requiring the Center to file a class action lawsuit in January of 2015.

In affirming that Ohio taxpayers maintain a constitutional right to recover unlawfully-imposed taxes, Judge Martin of the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas denied the Board’s Motion for Summary Judgment, rejecting the Board’s position that it was not required to return any of the funds, or that in the alternative, it was required to return $2 million at most.

Indian Hill School District property taxpayers can expect a refund check by March 1, 2016. Amounts are expected to be approximately $1,000 for the average taxpayer, and much greater for many others.

“The outcome of this case reflects the principles that property taxes cannot be increased without a vote by citizens, unlawfully-collected taxes must be returned to those taxpayers from whom they were taken, and government must pay interest to taxpayers when it has kept their funds for many years, as here,” said Maurice Thompson, Executive Director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law.

“These results should dissuade other school districts from attempting to unlawfully raise taxes. Nevertheless, Ohioans should have a hard look at their school board members, who, absent scrutiny, could quite literally be getting away with theft, as would have otherwise happened here.”

Due to the class-action status of the case, the Court of Common Pleas will hold several hearings over the coming months to finalize the case, including addressing the administrative complexities of issuing pro rata refunds not just to current homeowners in the district, but to those that owned homes during the period of illegal taxation.

Rather than settling the matter in January, the Board diverted nearly $200,000 from funds earmarked for the education of school district children to pay attorneys fees of $400 per hour. Unable to find Cincinnati law firms willing to defend its practices, the Board opted to hire a firm consisting of Washington D.C. lobbyists and Cleveland lawyers.

The Board and its lawyers argued that it was entitled to keep the taxpayers’ money because each and every taxpayer did not file an individual protest letter with each and every property tax payment, and further argued that perhaps it could have legally raised taxes, albeit to a lesser extent, in the absence of the unlawful tax increase that it chose.

The 1851 Center countered by explaining that state and federal Due Process Clauses have been held to require the return of unlawfully-charged taxes. The Court took little time in flatly rejecting the firm’s arguments and siding with the 1851 Center.

“Judge Martin should be commended for scrutinizing and seeing through the Board’s outlandish arguments rather than just reflexively siding with government – – the Court deserves credit for doing justice for Ohio taxpayers,” added Thompson.

Read more about the underlying Ohio Supreme Court Case HERE

Read the 1851 Center’s Class-Action Filings HERE

Ohio High Court Rebukes School District Tax Increase

Taxpayers cheated by Indian Hill School District’s “Inside Millage Move”, by raising taxes without public vote

school bus picking up kidsCincinnati – Indian Hill School District’s property tax increase without voter permission violated state law, according to unanimous ruling late yesterday from the Supreme Court of Ohio.

This decision rebuffs Ohio school districts’ efforts to take advantage of a legal loophole created in 1998, which appeared to allow such tax increases in limited circumstances, though not to collect tax revenue that the districts do not need or use, as they run considerable budget surpluses and stockpile cash reserves.

The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law asserted, on behalf of the taxpayers and homeowners of the Indian Hill School District, that the District violated state law in 2009 when it raised property taxes by 1.25 mills ($400 per year, on average, for Indian Hill households), without voter permission, while already, without the tax increase, running multi-million dollar budget surpluses and maintaining a free and clear cash reserve of over $25 million.

The case centered around Ohio Revised Code Section 5705.341, which provides “no tax rate shall be levied above that necessary to produce the revenue needed by the taxing district or political subdivision for the ensuing fiscal year,” and “Nothing . . . shall permit . . . the levying of any rate of taxation . . . unless such rate of taxation for the ensuing fiscal year is clearly required by a budget of the taxing district.”

The case also drew upon Section 2, Article XII of the Ohio Constitution, which forbids property taxation “in excess of one per cent of its true value in money for all state and local purposes,” except by approval of the voters.

Indian Hill raised taxes despite carrying an unencumbered surplus of over $25 million in its bank account at the time.

The Court’s decision, authored by Justice O’Neill, explains “far from defraying current operating expenses, the increased revenue from the outside mills padded the district’s surplus. To permit a tax increase that performs no function other than to increase the amount of budget surplus would deprive the ‘clearly required’ standard of all meaning.”

“The Court’s decision means that already-wealthy Ohio school districts cannot continue to use public budgeting gimmicks to raise property taxes without a vote. This decision protects taxpayers here and also in many other districts,” said Maurice Thompson, Executive Director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law.

“While running exorbitant budget surpluses and maintaining a thick bank account may echo fiscal responsibility to some, this means the school district is taking from taxpayers money that it does not need – – over-taxing them rather than allowing them to keep and use their own money for their families’ betterment.”

The 1851 Center will now litigate to recoup for the taxpayers the roughly six million dollars that Indian Hill School District wrongfully charged them between 2010 and 2014.

The Court’s Decision can be found HERE.

Oral Arguments from the case can be viewed HERE.

 


March 12, 2015: Cincinnati.com: Indian Hill Board stonewalls refund of inside millage tax

December 14, 2014: Sandusky Register: Court: Some schools’ inside millage moves could be illegal

December 4, 2014: Cincinnati.com: Court ruling could reduce property taxes in Indian Hill

Ohio Supreme Court Argument: Can School Districts Raise Your Taxes Without a Vote?

1851 Center argues that Indian Hill School District violated state law by raising property taxes without a vote, while already running huge budget surpluses and maintaining extravagant cash on hand

supremecourtColumbus, OH – The Supreme Court of Ohio on Tuesday heard oral arguments on whether Ohio school districts need voter permission to raise property taxes that collect tax revenue that the districts do not need or use, even as they run considerable budget surpluses and stockpile cash reserves.

The 1851 Center asserts, on behalf of the taxpayers of the Indian Hill School District, that the District violated state law in 2009 when it raised property taxes by 1.25 mills ($400 per year, on average, for Indian Hill households), without voter permission, while already, without the tax increase, running multi-million dollar budget surpluses and maintaining a free and clear cash reserve of over $25 million.

The case centers around Ohio Revised Code Section 5705.341, which provides “no tax rate shall be levied above that necessary to produce the revenue needed by the taxing district or political subdivision for the ensuing fiscal year,” and “Nothing . . . shall permit . . . the levying of any rate of taxation . . . unless such rate of taxation for the ensuing fiscal year is clearly required by a budget of the taxing district.”

The case also draws upon Section 2, Article XII of the Ohio Constitution, which forbids property taxation “in excess of one per cent of its true value in money for all state and local purposes,” except by approval of the voters.

“If Indian Hill – – Ohio’s wealthiest school district – – can use public budgeting gimmicks to raise property taxes without a vote, then any school district in Ohio will be able to follow suit. A victory in this case is important to protecting taxpayers here and also in many other school districts,” said Maurice Thompson, Executive Director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law.

“Running exorbitant budget surpluses and maintaining a thick bank account may echo fiscal responsibility to some; however, this means the school district is taking from taxpayers money that it does not need- – over-taxing them rather than allowing them to keep and use their own money for their families’ betterment.”

Watch the oral argument HERE.

The Ohio Supreme Court previews the argument HERE.

Legal Center to High Court: Cleveland-Area Stormwater Tax Unconstitutional

Northeast Ohio Sewer District tax on “impervious surfaces” is without legislative authorization, and is a property tax without the required voter approval

stormwaterColumbus, OH – The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law late yesterday submitted to the Ohio Supreme Court its Merit Brief asserting that the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, a Cleveland-Akron area administrative agency, lacks authority to regulate property in response to rainwater, which is not sewage, and even if it has such authority, may not impose a stormwater-related tax without a vote.

The Sewer District seeks to levy a tax on “impervious surfaces” on hundreds of thousands of Northeast Ohio residential and business property owners. These surfaces include roofs, patios, driveways, and parking lots, and are taxes levied based upon the square footage of each. The District maintains that this is a means of addressing rain-related erosion, run-off, and flooding.

Although such districts’ authorities often claim that settlement agreements with the federal EPA mandate such programs, such settlements mandate no particular course of action and do not permit agencies to transgress the Ohio Constitution.

Joining the 1851 Center on the Brief is the Ohio Real Estate Investors Association. Objecting to the taxes and regulations are several Cleveland-area municipalities, as well as numerous property-owner and business organizations, including the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants, Greater Cleveland Association of Building Owners and Managers, and the Cleveland Automobile Dealers Association.

The 1851 Center’s amicus brief argues that a sewer district, as an administrative agency of defined and limited powers, has no authority to impose taxes and regulations related to rainwater falling from the sky, i.e. something other than sewage. The brief further maintains that even if the agency had power to address rainwater, it may not tax property owners because the Ohio Constitution prohibits the raising of property taxes without voter approval through a tax levy election.

The 1851 Center’s brief asserts the following:

 

  • Pursuant to the Ohio Constitution, the General Assembly can only confer administrative power on an agency, and such agencies may not make policy.

 

  • The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District seeks to manage stormwater – – rain, essentially. The legislature, however, fully aware that it rains and snows in Cleveland, gave the Sewer District no such authority.

 

  • The Sewer District maintains no power to levy a tax without voter approval.

 

  • Although labeled a “fee,” the stormwater fee meets the legal standards of a tax because it is levied without regard to use, on certain property owners who gain no particular benefit from paying it, to advance goals that benefit the general public.

 

“Agencies like this are entirely unaccountable to the public, and this case stands for the principles that such agencies cannot take control of every facet of our lives, down to rainwater and the size of our patios, while taxing development in a manner that punishes and discourages it, with no regard to economic factors or public approval,” said Maurice Thompson, Executive Director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law.

“The Sewer District’s tax on impervious surfaces, including nearly every patio, rooftop, and driveway in Northeast Ohio, bares a far closer resemblance to sewage than does rainwater, and the District must consider less invasive methods to dealing with rain, which we have managed to deal with without taxation for all of human civilization.”

Oral arguments will likely take place in the fall.

Read the Amicus Brief here.

Legal Center to High Court: Traffic Cameras Unconstitutional in Ohio

Toledo’s enforcement scheme for enforcing traffic camera infractions violates Ohio Constitution

Red-light-cameraColumbus, OH – The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law today submitted to the Ohio Supreme Court its brief in Walker v. City of Toledo asserting that the City of Toledo’s method of fining drivers under its automated traffic camera violates the judicial article of the Ohio Constitution.

Joining the 1851 Center on the Brief are 21 State Representatives and eight State Senators.

The 1851 Center’s brief argues Section 4, Article I of the Ohio Constitution requires that Ohioans’ rights and liabilities must be determined by elected judges unless the General Assembly has created statutory authority for something less than a judge.

This means that the City is required to use municipal judges to enforce the camera violations, rather than the administrative hearing officers that all cities currently use. However, these cities’ agreements with private camera corporations require the use of administrative hearing officers.

“While the issue in this case may sound like a mere procedural hang-up, we are confident that if we succeed, traffic camera violations will essentially become impossibly expensive and untenable for Ohio cities to enforce. If we win, these cameras will quickly disappear from Ohio,” said Maurice Thompson, Executive Director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law.

The 1851 Center’s brief asserts the following:

  • Through the Ohio Constitution, citizens vested judicial power in the courts only. And Ohio cities’ hearing officers exercise “judicial power” when they determine whether Ohio drivers are liable for the violation.
  • While the Ohio Constitution permits the Ohio General Assembly to create additional judicial power, legislators have never created blanket authority for cities, or traffic-camera specific authority. Instead, they have indicated that all such violations must run through municipal courts.
  • The City of Toledo, like other Ohio cities, cannot create judicial power through local ordinances.
  • “Administrative” traffic camera enforcement violates Ohioans’ right to defend themselves before an elected judge, as well as their due process right to judicial oversight before deprivation of their vehicles.

“At the end of the day, Due Process means that you get to see a judge before government takes your money or your car,” said Thompson. “Through these camera agreements, Ohio’s local governments are essentially selling to private corporations the right to fine their citizens and take their vehicles. We believe that it’s time to end this practice.”

The General Assembly has taken no action to enable administrative enforcement, but has instead maintained a longstanding statute requiring that municipal courts must field cases related to municipal ordinances, unless parking-related. This means that the City is required to use municipal judges rather than administrative hearing officers.

The municipalities maintain that constitutional “home rule” authority lends them the power to create judicial authorities such as the hearing officers. However the Ohio Supreme Court has rejected such a claim four times between 1925 and 1959, stating that only the General Assembly can create additional judicial officers, and violations of city ordinances must be handled in municipal courts. The Appellate Court was also unconvinced.

The Brief explains that if Ohio’s high court gives a pass to municipalities, it will be turning upside down the Ohio Constitution’s requirement that Ohioans have access to an actual judge before being deprived of their property. Toledo exacts a $120 fine, and seizes or immobilizes the vehicles of those who do not or cannot pay.

Joining the 1851 Center’s Brief is a bipartisan coalition of legislators, including State Senators Seitz, Schaffer, Jordan, Jones, Uecker, Patton, and Ecklund; and State Representatives Mallory, Adams, Maag, Becker, Lynch, Boose, Conditt, Perales, Hacket, Blair, Adams, Stautberg, Rosenberger, Dovilla, Blessing, Patmon, Beck, Reece, Hall, Derickson, and Barnes.

Read the Amicus Brief here.


March 17, 2014: WBNS-10TV: Ohio Supreme Court Could Soon Determine Fate Of Red Light Traffic Cameras [VIDEO]

March 15, 2014: Toledo Blate: State lawmakers, liberties groups oppose devices

March 14, 2014: San Francisco Gate via Associated Press: Ohio legislators, liberties groups oppose cameras

March 13, 2014: 610 WTVN: Court case could spell the end of traffic-enforcement cameras

IRS Targeting of 1851 Center in May of 2010 Demonstrates Broader Corruption

IRS harassment was not limited to “tea party” organizations, and began earlier than many believe

IRSreleaseimageAColumbus, OH – The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law today emphasized that Internal Revenue Service harassment of groups advocating for limited government extends as far back as early 2010, and includes organizations exclusively dedicated to protecting constitutional rights, including the 1851 Center.

In its May 20, 2010 response to the 1851 Center’s application for tax-exempt status, the IRS demands that, in order to receive approval of its application, the 1851 Center must: “Please explain in detail your organization’s involvement with the Tea Party.

The 1851 Center explained that it provides legal representation to Ohioans whose constitutional rights have been aggrieved, including tea party organizations and members, and ultimately received tax exempt status. However, this instance is significant because it reveals infractions beyond what even the Inspector General for Tax Administration’s May 14 Report reveals:

 

  • While the Report focuses on 501(c)(4) political and/or lobbying organizations, the 1851 Center applied for status as an educational and/or civil public charity under Section 501(c)(3) (the 1851 Center is a public interest law firm that litigates civil rights cases without engaging in politics).
  • While the Report indicates that “[t]he Determinations Unit developed and used inappropriate criteria to identify applications from organizations with the words Tea Party in their names,” the 1851 Center made no reference to “tea party,” nor “patriot” or “9-12,” in is application, much less in its name.
  • IRS harassment of liberty-oriented groups, and intent to root out “tea party” activities, even through non-tea party sources such as 1851, has been in full force for a minimum of three years.

 

In its IRS filings, the 1851 Center indicated that its mission was “to defend constitutional rights and human rights through legal action.” The Center supplied no information that would have indicated any particular relationship with any particular tea-party organization.

“As with demands made of other organizations, the IRS demand to the 1851 Center was at minimum, irrelevant, and appears to have been calculated to do political opposition research on organizations opposing the President’s policies through, ironically, doing nothing more than enforcing the United States and Ohio constitutions.” said Maurice Thompson, Executive Director of the 1851 Center. “Investigators must acknowledge that the breadth of this scandal extends to not just ‘tea party’ groups, but to conservative and libertarian think tanks and public interest law firms across the nation.”

The 1851 Center has been a steadfast opponent of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act since March of 2010, having initiated the Ohio Health Care Freedom Amendment, service as amicus counsel on the lawsuits opposing the individual mandate, and counseling against a state-based Obamacare exchange and more recently against Medicaid expansion.

Read the IRS Demand Letter to the 1851 Center HERE.

High Court Will Determine Ohioans Right to Challenge JobsOhio

1851 Center argues that state taxpayers maintain standing to challenge the constitutionality of Corporate Welfare

Columbus, OH – The Supreme Court of Ohio heard arguments on January 23 to determine the extent to which Ohioans may take legal action to force state government to comply with constitutional spending, indebtedness, and corporate welfare constraints.

The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law has spearheaded the litigation, briefing and arguing the merits of the position that the Ohio Constitution demands broad access to the courts for taxpayers seeking to enforce the Ohio Constitution’s structural restraints on government. The Center had originally submitted to the Ohio Supreme Court a “friend of the court” brief asserting that Progress Ohio and other left-wing challengers must be found to have taxpayer and “public interest” standing to challenge the constitutionality of Governor Kasich’s JobsOhio legislation.

The 1851 Center asserts that if Ohio’s high court gives a pass to lower court rulings that Progress Ohio does not possess standing in this case, the Court will essentially bar all Ohioans from enforcing the Ohio Constitution’s stringent spending, debt, and “anti-corporate-welfare” provisions, effectively rending these provisions unenforceable.

The JobsOhio legislation sets up a special public-private corporation to invest public funds in select private corporations without transparency. The challengers contend (1) these features violate the Ohio Constitution’s prohibitions on corporate welfare and state spending and indebtedness (contained in Articles 8 and 13); and (2) the General Assembly has unconstitutionally attempted to insulate JobsOhio from judicial scrutiny by including a provision that essentially prohibits any legal actions from being brought to challenge it.

Lower courts refused to consider these serious constitutional claims, flippantly concluding that Progress Ohio has no standing (the right to sue in Court) because it does not have a sufficiently “personal stake” in enforcement of the state constitution; and further because enforcement of the constitution’s spending, debt, and corporate welfare limits are not a sufficiently important public interest to warrant an exemption from this personal stake requirement.

The 1851 Center’s initial brief, which takes no position on the substantive issue – – the constitutionality of JobsOhio – – asserts the following:

  • The Ohio Constitution demands that citizens and taxpayers maintain standing to enforce limits on tax, spending, and indebtedness legislation.
  • The lower courts in this case erred in relying on federal standing cases, which are centered on Article III of the federal constitution, because the language of the Ohio Constitution deliberately rejects such barriers to standing in Ohio, and contains no jurisdictional prohibition on taxpayers and citizens bringing public interest actions.
  • Enforcing well-defined constitutional limits on state spending, indebtedness, and governmental conferral of special corporate privilege is “of great importance and interest to the public.”
  • Ohioans’ stake in enforcement of their constitution is sufficiently personal to maintain standing to enforce constitutional limits on state government’s spending, indebtedness, and provision of special corporate privileges.
  • If Ohioans are required to have a “personal stake” in such actions beyond their role as citizens and taxpayers, as the lower courts require in this case, then no Ohioan will have the capacity to enforce these general spending, debt and corporate welfare limits, and Courts will have rendered those provisions effectively unenforceable.

“While we may not agree with Progress Ohio’s politics, we certainly believe that they, like all Ohioans, must have standing to defend the Ohio Constitution in court, if that document is to remain enforceable,” said Maurice Thompson, Executive Director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law. “By requiring a ‘personal stake’ in a matter upon which all Ohioans are harmed relatively equally, such as state spending, indebtedness, and corporate welfare, Ohio courts are pulling the rug out from under these key constitutional limitations on government, and placing their own preference for abstaining from the hard work of enforcing the constitution above them. Such decisions cannot stand, if these important limits on government are to be enforceable going forward.”

Continued Thompson, “The Ohio Supreme Court’s decision in this case needs to acknowledge that when courts strip Ohioans’ of the right to enforce constitutional limits on government in court, they essentially redact those constitutional limits through procedural artifice. Ohio judges should enforce, not redact, the Ohio Constitution”

Read the 1851 Center’s initial Brief in this case HERE.

November 7, 2013: Columbus Dispatch: Supreme Court to decide who has the right to sue JobsOhio

November 6, 2013: WKSU NPR 89.7: Ohio Supreme Court hears first round of arguments in JobsOhio [AUDIO]

November 6, 2013: NBC 4: Foes Of Ohio Job-Creation Board Seek Right To Sue [VIDEO]

March 15, 2013: Ohio Watchdog: Court rejects basis for democracy in JobsOhio case

March 11, 2013: WBNS-10TV: Ohio Auditor Asks To See The Books For JobsOhio [VIDEO]

March 8, 2013: The Plain Dealer: Auditor’s authority to check JobsOhio books sparks dispute with Gov. John Kasich

February 26, 2013: Ohio Christian Alliance: The Important Issue of Judicial Standing with Maurice Thompson of the 1851 Law Center [AUDIO]

February 17, 2013: Dayton Daily News: ‘Activist’ Kasich getting mixed reviews

February 5, 2013: The Lima News: Editorial: JobsOhio delays irk Kasich

February 3, 2013: The Repository: Genesis of proposal doesn’t bode well for coming debate

January 31, 2013: Columbus Dispatch: Kasich says critics will answer to God

January 31, 2013: Media Trackers Ohio: Governor Kasich Blasts Conservative, Liberal Foes of JobsOhio as “Nihilists”

January 31, 2013: Columbus Business First: Kasich: JobsOhio foes threaten ‘wrecking’ state’s economy

January 31, 2013: Cincinnati.com: Kasich blasts supporters of JobsOhio lawsuit

January 23, 2013: Houston Chronicle: High court to decide group’s right to sue JobsOhio

January 23, 2013: Columbus Dispatch: State justices to assess legality of JobsOhio suit

Ohio Candidates Can’t Hide Behind Anti-Tax-Pledge Statute

antipledgestatTo hold their elected officials accountable, a conglomerate of conservative, libertarian, and tea-party groups representing Ohio taxpayers have recently devised two pledges for state legislative candidates. These pledges are directed toward educating Ohio voters as to who can be counted on to limit onerous taxation and regulation.

Specifically, the taxpayers call upon legislative candidates to pledge that they (1) will not vote in a manner inconsistent with health care freedom; and (2) will note vote to impose a severance tax on fledgling oil and gas production in Ohio.

As citizens began to ask candidates to sign this pledge, something interesting – – beyond a policy debate – – happened: some Republican candidates began to balk at the idea of a pledge.

Rather than take a stance, some candidates have even responded that the request that they take the pledge is illegal, and that the person asking them to sign it could be fined out of house and home.

While it’s unclear how vastly this view is held amongst the Ohio Republican Caucus, or Democrats, for that matter, two things are clear: (1) it’s not a violation of a law to ask one’s candidate to sign the pledge; and (2) the statute is, itself, flagrantly unconstitutional.

Read the full analysis HERE.

Petitions Submitted to Place Repeal of Westerville School Levy Tax on November Ballot

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

Enforceability of Ohio Constitution at Stake in Standing Dispute over JobsOhio

1851 Center supports Progress Ohio’s standing to challenge the constitutionality of JobsOhio  

Columbus, OH – The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law today submitted to the Ohio Supreme Court a “friend of the court” brief asserting that Progress Ohio and other left-wing challengers must be found to have taxpayer and “public interest” standing to challenge the constitutionality of Governor Kasich’s JobsOhio legislation.

The 1851 Center’s amicus brief argues that if Ohio’s high court gives a pass to lower court rulings that Progress Ohio does not possess standing in this case, the Court will essentially bar all Ohioans from enforcing the Ohio Constitution’s stringent spending, debt, and “anti-corporate-welfare” provisions, effectively rending these provisions unenforceable.

The JobsOhio legislation sets up a special public-private corporation to invest public funds in select private corporations without transparency. The challengers contend (1) these features violate the Ohio Constitution’s prohibitions on corporate welfare and state spending and indebtedness (contained in Articles 8 and 13); and (2) the General Assembly has unconstitutionally attempted to insulate JobsOhio from judicial scrutiny by including a provision that essentially prohibits any legal actions from being brought to challenge it.

Lower courts refused to consider these serious constitutional claims, flippantly concluding that Progress Ohio has no standing (the right to sue in Court) because it does not have a sufficiently “personal stake” in enforcement of the state constitution; and further because enforcement of the constitution’s spending, debt, and corporate welfare limits are not a sufficiently important public interest to warrant an exemption from this personal stake requirement.

The 1851 Center’s brief, which takes no position on the substantive issue at this stage – – the constitutionality of JobsOhio – – asserts the following:

  • The Ohio Constitution demands that citizens and taxpayers maintain standing to enforce limits on tax, spending, and indebtedness legislation.

  • The lower courts in this case erred in relying on federal standing cases, which are centered on Article III of the federal constitution, because the language of the Ohio Constitution deliberately rejects such barriers to standing in Ohio, and contains no jurisdictional prohibition on taxpayers and citizens bringing public interest actions.

  • Enforcing well-defined constitutional limits on state spending, indebtedness, and governmental conferral of special corporate privilege is “of great importance and interest to the public.”

  • Ohioans’ stake in enforcement of their constitution is sufficiently personal to maintain standing to enforce constitutional limits on state government’s spending, indebtedness, and provision of special corporate privileges.

  • If Ohioans are required to have a “personal stake” in such actions beyond their role as citizens and taxpayers, as the lower courts require in this case, then no Ohioan will have the capacity to enforce these general spending, debt and corporate welfare limits, and Courts will have rendered those provisions effectively unenforceable.

“While we may not agree with Progress Ohio’s politics, we certainly believe that they, like all Ohioans, must have standing to defend the Ohio Constitution in court, if that document is to remain enforceable,” said Maurice Thompson, Executive Director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law.

“By requiring a ‘personal stake’ in a matter upon which all Ohioans are harmed relatively equally, such as state spending, indebtedness, and corporate welfare, Ohio courts are pulling the rug out from under these key constitutional limitations on government, and placing their own preference for abstaining from the hard work of enforcing the constitution above them. Such decisions cannot stand, if these important limits on government are to be enforceable going forward.”

Continued Thompson, “The 1851 Center’s Brief is a clarion call to all Ohioans to pay attention to Ohio’s judicial branch, which, in instances such as this, chips away at the state constitution through procedural artifice.”


August 10, 2012: The State of Ohio: Battleground Ohio Again [VIDEO]

August 1, 2012: Hudson Hub Times: Conservative group backs liberal advocates in JobsOhio appeal

July 31, 2012: LegalNewsline: Lawsuit over JobsOhio legislation moves to Ohio SC

July 30, 2012: WEWS NewsChannel 5: Libertarian legal center joins JobsOhio fight

July 30, 2012: Cleveland.com: Lawsuit challenging JobsOhio continues with appeal to Ohio Supreme Court

July 30, 2012: Ohio Votes: Political Opposites Join Forces In Court Fight [VIDEO]

July 31, 2012: LegalNewsline: Lawsuit over JobsOhio legislation moves to Ohio SC


Read the filed Amicus Brief here.