This story was inspired by reader comments. To submit a question or suggestion through our Open Source portal, follow this link.
MANSFIELD — Voters in the cities of Mansfield and Shelby should not be confused when looking at income tax renewal ballot language.
These two issues on the May 2 primary ballot are renewal issues and will not result in any tax increases — despite the fact the word “renewal” does not appear anywhere on the ballot language.
Mansfield voters are being asked to renew for another four years the 1/2-percent income tax that supports the city’s police and fire departments.
Shelby voters will decide on a five-year renewal of a 0.2-percent income tax for road and sidewalk improvements.
The Secretary of State template for income tax issues is different than the templates used for property taxes, according to Richland County Board of Elections Director Matt Finfgeld.
Voters in Mansfield and Shelby will see the word “renewal” for property tax issues for things like the Mansfield/Richland County Public Library or the Ohio District 5 Area Agency on Aging.
The word appears in the header and also in the body of the issue’s ballot language.
It does not appear in the income tax ballot template. The language in the body of the issue refers to a “continuation” of the tax.
Finfgeld said the local board simply uses the templates provided by Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s office, which follows voting laws approved by state lawmakers.
In this instance, income tax issue wording is approved as part of Ohio Revised Code 718.04. The templates are part of a 349-page publication available on the Secretary of State’s website titled, “Ohio Ballot Questions and Issues Handbook.”
“That’s just the way the templates read,” Finfgeld said. “We don’t have the ability to change (templates). We have to follow the guidelines we have.”
He said Deputy Director Jane Zimmerman puts local information into the templates each election and sends then to LaRose’s office for approval. She also sends them to the governmental entities proposing the taxes.
“We can’t just make it say anything we want,” Finfgeld said.