By Kristin Rover
State representatives with the Ohio Tax Reform Legislative Study Committee met Aug. 21 at University of Cincinnati Clermont College East Campus to hear testimony from several local government officials and leaders.
The hearing was one of five that will be held in the state in August and September.
State Representative Gary Scherer, of Circleville, is the chair for the committee. Representatives in attendance included Representatives Mark Romanchuk, Dist. 2; Doug Green, Dist. 66; Tom Leston, Dist. 64; Peter Beck, Dist 54; and Mike Foley, Dist 14.
Members of the committee heard testimony about tax reform from several members of the community.
From Clermont County, Commissioner Ed Humphrey and Union Township Administrator Ken Geis, and Clermont County Chamber of Commerce CEO Matt Van Sant gave testimony.
Each speaker raised different concerns and suggestions for tax reform in the state.
“I want to thank the Ohio House of Representatives for forming this special committee and bringing the opportunity to testify here to Clermont College to hear from local governments and the community,” Commissioner Ed Humphrey said during his testimony.
Humphrey said Ohio tax policies impact core services and play out at the local level. He said the effect is important to Ohio’s economic development and creating communities that help make Ohio a great place to live and work.
“Cuts in the local government funds and the repeal of personal property tax on machinery and inventory have been particularly difficult on township and municipal governments as well as the county,” Humphrey said. “Casino revenue has offset some losses for counties, but the revenues are much lower than anticipated.”
He said several things that could help increase revenue in the county include broadening the sales tax base, closing the loophole of internet sales from outside the state, and getting the severance tax on par with neighboring states.
Union Township Administrator Ken Geis also talked about the impact the economy and cuts to the local government fund have had on Union Township.
He cited the reduction of the tangible personal property reimbursements, the elimination of the utility tax, and the loss of the estate tax as contributors to the decrease in revenue.
“Over the last five years, most governments have experienced a decrease in revenue,” Geis said. “Some of the loss in funding is attributable to the recession, but much is directly related to the modifications to historical funding methods.”
Geis said in Union Township in 2010, the general fund had revenues of nearly $4 million and this year they have projected to receive $2.75 million.
“For more than three years, we have been forced to try to determine the best method to fund our communities to a level that is acceptable, faced with the reality that most residents cannot afford, or are unwilling to pay, additional taxes through traditional taxing methods,” Geis said.
Geis said the township has worked hard to provide necessary services and reinvent themselves in the “new normal” in public funding.
He talked about their efforts and the success they have had with Tax Increment Financing Districts as well as Joint Economic Development Districts in the township.
And while he said the township has had several specific examples of success using these methods, Geis made several suggestions to the representatives moving forward.
“If you look to change anything, please give us more economic development tools that inspire new development or eliminate process,” Geis said.
When asked for specific examples of these tools, Geis said improving the availability of skilled workers, eliminating some of the processes involved in creating a TIF district or a JEDD, and give permission for TIF revenue to be used more broadly in an area.
Geis also requested the representatives put an end to cuts in local government funding.
“Please, no more,” he said.
Speakers from areas surrounding Clermont County included Springfield Township Trustee Joe Honerlaw, Mental Health Recovery Services of Warren and Clinton Counties Executive Director Brent Lawyer, One Ohio Now State Director Gavin DeVore, and more.
Each speaker share their experiences and suggestions regarding taxes reform with committee members.
Speakers from the state included Robert Cole, controlling board president of the Ohio Office of Budget and Management and Joe Testa, the Commissioner for the Ohio Department of Taxation.
Both state officials presented information and statistics about taxes and funding in the state.
Representatives were able to ask questions and make comments after all of the testimonies during the hearing.
The hearing in Batavia was the second hearing held by the tax reform committee.
The first committee hearing was held at Ohio University Chillicothe Branch Aug. 14.
The remaining hearings will be at 10 a.m. Sept. 3 at Bowling Green City Council Chambers, 10 a.m. Sept. 12 at the North Ridgeville City Council Chambers, and 1 p.m. Sept. 17 at the Ohio Statehouse.
The hearings are open to the public.
Individuals who are interested in providing testimony at a hearing can contact Alex Goodman at email@example.com or (614) 644-7928.