Westerville Tax Repeal Issue Rejected by Ohio Supreme Court


Full text of the Court's opinion

In a unanimous decision on September 20, 2012, the Ohio Supreme Court decided in favor of Bricker & Eckler’s client, Westerville City Schools. In the case of State ex rel. Taxpayers for Westerville Schools v. Franklin County Board of Elections the Court denied the Taxpayers for Westerville Schools’ request to compel the Board of Elections to place a levy repeal initiative on the November 6 ballot.

In November 2009, the electors of the Westerville City School District approved a 11.4 mill same-rate replacement levy. In 2012, the Taxpayers for Westerville Schools, a nonprofit political action committee, along with several Westerville residents, submitted an initiative petition to the Franklin County Board of Elections to appear on the November 6, 2012 general election ballot. The petition proposed a decrease of an alleged increased rate of levy approved in November 2009. The levy-decrease question was designated
as Issue 52 for the November 6 ballot.

A school district resident protested the validity of Issue 52, and the Franklin County Board of Elections removed the levy-decrease question from the November 6 ballot on the grounds that, contrary to the petition statement, there was no increase in the rate of levy approved in 2009; the levy was a same-rate replacement levy.

The Taxpayers for Westerville Schools then filed a request with the Ohio Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to compel the board of elections to place their levy-decrease question on the November 6 ballot. The Court summarized the issue as follows: "The dispositive issue in assessing the propriety of the elections board’s determination is whether the voter-approved 11.4-mill levy in November 2009 constituted an “increased rate of levy” from the then existing levies in the school district."

The Taxpayers for Westerville Schools argued that the 2009 11.4-mill levy increased the actual or effective taxes collected and paid by district property owners. The Court, however, held that applicable statutes do not permit The Taxpayers for Westerville Schools to substitute “actual taxes” for “rate of levy", and therefore, as there was no increase in the rate of levy, the mandamus was denied by the Court.

Bricker & Eckler attorneys Anne Marie Sferra, Maria J. Armstrong, Jennifer A. Flint and Rebecca C. Princehorn represented the school district in the successful case.

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