Some tough real estate tax questions for Mr. Plecnik…..updated 4/10

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Here is another email to Mr. Plecnik from our Painesville Township Lobbyist Chuck Laughlin…. If we receive a reply from Mr. Plecnik, we will update the post.

John,

I received your flyer in the mail recently.  In it you identified some of the “other Lake County champions for smaller government” including Congressman Dave Joyce.

Are you sure you really want to include Congressman Joyce as one of these champions?  If so, on what basis are you doing so?

Also, are you seriously saying that you will go “line-by-line through the state budget in order to save money, cut taxes, and make government move at the speed of business”?  And if you should be elected and you haven’t been given enough time to do a thorough review of a proposed budget before having to vote, would you still vote for it?  And what if there is something in there that you don’t think is appropriate, will you vote no?  In general, will you vote for any bill that you haven’t read in its entirety?

Finally, the Lobbyists for Citizens group in Lake County has expressed concern, and rightly so, that property taxes continue to increase and are ever increasingly putting pressure on senior citizens and others on fixed incomes.  If it hasn’t already done so, the projection is that it will start to force senior citizens out of the homes.  A number of the property tax increases that have been approved by voters in special elections or other low turnout elections where the issue would pass with a voter turnout of less than 20%

Most recently, in the 5/2/17 election which had one Willoughby judge primary and seven tax levies on the ballot and two other local issues on the ballot.  The overall voter turnout was 14%.  Below is the breakdown for six of the levies.  The percentage of registered voters that approved the tax levies ranged from 11 to 17%.

Votes Total No. of % of
For Votes Registered Registered
% For Voters Voters For
Lakeline 27 32 84% 165 16%
Eastlake Renew 1,470 1,908 77% 12,234 12%
Eastlake New 1,368 1,901 72% 12,234 11%
Riverside Schools 2,455 4,850 51% 20,088 12%
Kirtland Schools 893 1,228 73% 5,599 16%
Madison TWP 1,573 2,491 63% 9,465 17%

Too many times, these tax levies are put on the ballot when there is expected to be a low turnout for that very reason.  Many times there is little advance notice of the election.  In addition to the additional taxes, the taxpayers have to foot the bill for a special election!

I would propose that a minimum threshold be established in order for a tax levy to be able to pass.  It would be in terms of the minimum percentage of registered voters that have to vote for the levy in order for it to pass.  I would propose 33%.  So, in addition to getting a majority of the vote, the number in favor of the levy would have to equal or exceed 33% of the registered voters.  If everyone voting were in favor of the tax levy, the minimum turnout would have to match the requirement of at least 33% of registered voters.  As one can easily see, none of the above levies would even come close to meeting the requirement.  And since everyone has to pay the taxes when the levy passes, shouldn’t at least one third of the affected registered voters be in favor of it?

With the requirement in place, there would be practically no incentive for an entity to put a tax levy on the ballot where a low voter turnout is expected.  This would minimize the number of special elections.

I would appreciate your responses to the questions that I have posed as well as my proposal for a minimum threshold for passing tax levies.

Regards,
Chuck Laughlin

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Updated 4/10/18    3:18 pm

Here is Mr. Plecnik’s response to our Lobbyist:

Chuck,
Thank you for reaching out to me and sharing your thoughts.  First and foremost, I agree that taxes are too high and our current system makes it too easy to hike them.
I understand and respect the fact that you and I have never agreed on Congressman Dave Joyce.  But I think we both agree that Obamacare was one of the biggest expansions of government in the last century.  Dave voted to repeal it at every opportunity, and Obamacare’s individual mandate was repealed by President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which Dave proudly voted for.
Second, I don’t plan to vote for any bill I don’t have the time to read.  In Willoughby Hills, I demanded that we follow the three-reading rule, which requires you to read most legislation three times at three different meetings before passage.  I even published an article on the importance of deliberation in The News-Herald, and a copy is still available on my website.  I understand that the state budget will be a bigger task, but I carefully review our budget in Willoughby Hills, and I have kept my promise to vote against any deficit budget and only vote for a balanced budget.
Third, Brian has already reached out to me with his concerns about property taxes.  Here is my response to him, with one typo corrected:
“I believe that our taxes our too high, and that includes property taxes.  Part of the reason is that public schools are overburdened by bureaucracy.  In my view, if you fired half the administrators, and paid the other half, half as much, you would still have too many overpaid administrators.
If we work to to curtail bureaucracy in our public schools and other local government agencies, we can afford to cut taxes back to reasonable levels while maintaining or even increasing the level of service to our children.
My bottom line is that our legislators are responsible for finding tax savings and eliminating unnecessary administrative overhead.”
As to your idea, I like it in principle, and I think it is one way that you could build more accountability into the system.  Another idea that I like, which you might add to yours, is to require a 60% (rather than greater than 50%) vote to pass a new tax levy.
Many thanks,
John

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