• 32°

Stephens deserves another term on the job

We deserve a county auditor who is honest and understands the administrative nature of the job. That is why I ask my fellow Lawrence County voters to keep Jason Stephens as auditor.

His Democratic opponent, Jason Tolliver, has spent most of the campaign season blaming Stephens for tax increases. No one likes paying taxes, but Tolliver’s campaign rhetoric signals a disqualifying level of ignorance, dishonesty, or both.

First, it is factually false to claim that Lawrence County’s taxes are abnormally high. According to the Ohio Tax Department, our tax rate is less than half the state average. In fact, we have the lowest gross tax rate for residential and agricultural property in the entire state. See https://www.tax.ohio.gov/Portals/0/tax_analysis/tax_data_series/all_property_taxes/pr6/PR6CY18.pdf.

Second, the auditor does not set property taxes — by law, voters get to set their own taxes via ballot levies. See Ohio Rev. Code Sec. 5705.07. Since 2012, Lawrence Countians have voted in favor of 26 local levies, while rejecting only five.

Third, the auditor cannot legally deflate property values. Ohio law requires a full reappraisal of all real estate in every county every six years. It also requires an “update” in the three-year periods between reappraisals. See Ohio Rev. Code Sec. 5713.01; Ohio Admin. Code Sec. 5703-25-06. Reappraisals must be conducted by specialized, certified teams of appraisers, approved by the state — that is, the auditor does not personally set property values. See Ohio Rev. Code Sec. 5713.012. And the State Tax Department can force property values to increase if they are artificially devalued. See Ohio Rev. Code Sec. 5715.24.

Quite simply, Tolliver’s promises are divorced from reality, and Lawrence County voters should reject his empty rhetoric.

Keep Jason Stephens our county auditor.

 

Casey W. Baker, Proctorville