Impactful Changes to Ohio Ballot Language and Election Notices

August 18, 2022Articles


On June 14, 2022, HB 140 (134th General Assembly; Amended House Bill 140), also known as the “Ballot Uniformity and Transparency Act” (the “Act”), was signed into law, providing dramatic changes to Ohio’s ballot language and election notices for property tax levies and bond issues affecting Ohio political subdivisions (Click Here for Summary).  The effects of this newly enacted legislation are vast, impacting the application of terminology, measurement standards for resulting dollars and millage rates, the display of estimated revenues to be collected, ballot language restrictions and the timing of certain certifications. 

In order to establish greater consistency among defined terms across ballot issues, the Act provides changes to certain terminology, including the consistently applied terms “county auditor’s appraised value” and “taxable value.” Under prior law, the terms “tax valuation” and “valuation” were often used to represent property valuation of 35% of a county auditor’s appraised value or true value. Pursuant to the Act, the terms “tax valuation” and “valuation” have been changed to “taxable value,” meaning 35% of a county auditor’s appraised value or true value. In addition, the term “county auditor’s appraised value” frequently replaces the term “tax valuation” or “valuation” when measuring the dollar impact of a property tax. Also, the term “estimated effective rate” has been added in order to refer to certain levies where the identified millage rate must account for the tax reduction factor, as discussed in more detail below.

Other modifications include changes to the basis for measuring the financial impact of a ballot issue. While the measurement of the millage rate for bond issues and tax levies derived from a property tax remains the same (specifically, “x” mills for each $1 of taxable value), the measurement of the dollar impact of such a bond issue or tax levy has changed in three respects: (a) first, as part of a new requirement under the Act, the estimated amount of annual collections must now be identified as part of the ballot language rounded to the nearest $1,000 (bond issues are excepted from this requirement); (b) second, the dollar impact of a bond issue or a tax levy is no longer measured per $100, but per $100,000, and as a result, the dollar impact of a bond issue or a tax levy is now reported in dollars alone and not in cents; and (c) third, the dollar impact of a bond issue or a tax levy is no longer measured on the basis of taxable value, but upon the basis of the county auditor’s appraised value. As a general matter, the annual collection requirement in (a) above currently applies to fixed sum levies, but not other types of tax levies, which will now be required to display such annual estimated amount of revenue to be collected. As a consequence of (c) above, the portion of the ballot language relating to millage will reflect a rate resulting from taxable value while the dollar impact will now reflect dollars resulting from the county auditor’s appraised value rather than taxable value. 

The Bill Analysis provides the following example when contrasting prior ballot language to the new ballot language, using the example of a 12-mill tax levy:

Previous Language:

…12 mills for each one dollar of valuation…which amounts to $1.20 for each one hundred dollars of valuation…

New Language

…12 mills for each $1 of taxable value…which amounts to $420 for each $100,000 of the county auditor’s appraised value…

In addition, for new tax levies and existing tax levies not subject to the tax reduction factor, such as fixed sum levies, the Act requires the voted rate to be displayed as part of the ballot language. For any tax levy that is a renewal, decrease, increase or an expansion of an existing tax and subject to the tax reduction factor, the Act requires that the stated millage rate reflect the “estimated effective rate” of the existing tax per $100,000 of the county auditor’s appraised valuation in order to account for the effect of the tax reduction factor on annual tax levy collections against residential/agricultural property (class 1 property).

Other changes as a result of the Act include an additional five day certification period for county auditors to provide ballot certifications as such relate to emergency levies and growth levies for school districts, making the county auditor certification time frame for these two types of levies consistent with other property tax levies (10 days). In addition, the Act prohibits any portion of the ballot language from being printed in boldface type or appearing in a different font size than the remainder of the text of the ballot language. 

While the Act becomes effective on September 13, 2022, the changes to the ballot and notice language will not become effective until December 22, 2022, which is after the election to be conducted on November 8, 2022.

To discuss changes as a result of the Act, please contact your Dinsmore public finance attorney.