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Tax levy on ballot

August 29, 2013

Ed Pierce

Staff Writer
During an emergency meeting Wednesday, Auglaize County Board of Elections members decided by vote to allow a revised tax resolution for the village of Uniopolis to appear on the ballot in November.
Board members decided to grant the village’s request after Auglaize County Prosecuting Attorney Ed Pierce briefly addressed the board on the issue.
It is required for all proposed property tax levies that the part of Ohio Revised Code (ORC) that gives the government body the power to ask for the tax be listed in the ballot language. The problem with the Uniopolis proposal is it listed too much of the ORC, making it unclear if the board was asking for a continuous levy or a five-year term.
Also, the resolution contained parts of the ORC that allowed for current operating expenses but in other parts restricted the levy to
being spent on road construction.
After being sent to the office of Secretary of State John Husted, the ballot language was returned to Auglaize County with the problems corrected. Uniopolis Village Council held an emergency meeting Tuesday where members voted to correct the ballot language.
Pierce said the correction could cause other potential problems, but based on his best judgment, he felt the issue would be OK to appear on the ballot.
“It is a case where you make your best judgment,” Pierce said. “It has been the general concept of the election board to let the voters decide.”
Pierce said where the problem now lies is with filing deadlines.
“The law is much more clear on candidate issues,” Pierce said. “With this issue I am unsure of the timing. Is it considered an amendment or a new resolution. In this sense, I don’t see that it is adding anything. From a strict legal analysis, it is unclear if it leads back to the original filing.”
Pierce said potential consequences included the village filing a lawsuit if the issue was not allowed on the ballot, or possibly a writ of prohibition filed by a resident to not allow the tax on the ballot.
Pierce also said it was possible that the Ohio tax commissioner in Columbus could also determine it was not appropriate to levy the tax.
Pierce said it was ironic that the Secretary of State’s Office would not address the issue of whether the ballot was considered a new filing or an amendment to the timely-filed document.
“By sending it back with the corrections, they were substituting the judgment of the village,” Pierce said. “The Secretary of State’s Office made that decision. However, they said it was not within their legal jurisdiction to make a legal review of election documents concerning whether the document was a new document or amended.”
Uniopolis Village Solicitor Angie Elliott briefly addressed board members before the vote, saying the language had been fixed to address the council’s proposal.
“It was their intent to have the levy state it was for five years and for all current expenses,” Elliott said. “The changes comply with the original intention of the council.”
Auglaize County Board of Elections Director Michelle Wilcox said the problem caused no timing issues as far as getting the proposal on the ballot and printed for the election.
“To me, they have already said we could clarify the issue because the Secretary of State’s Office has already done that,” board President Fran Engle. “They are saying it is OK.”
“I agree,” board member Mary Dee Malueg said. “Let the voters decide.”
Uniopolis Councilor Marilyn Fleck, who attended the meeting, said she was glad the issue was able to make the ballot.
“I don’t feel optimistic about its chances,” said Fleck, “but I am glad it is on. We wanted to give the voters different options to keep the village going.”

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