OCP Responds to Editorial Criticizing Levy Calls

November 13, 2017

Editor
Ravenna Record Courier
206 East Erie Street
Kent, Ohio 44240

Dear Editor,

I am writing this letter in response to your opinion piece posted on November 12, 2017 titled “Editorial: Elections pluses and minuses.” In the first paragraph you state that I communicated “clearly false information” concerning the levies on the ballot on November 7th.  Let me point out that what I communicated was not false, and was not intended to be false, it was based on what was stated in the legal statement of the actual ballot language. The ballot language fails to differentiate between “Appraised Value” vs “Assessed Value.” The Appraised value is what your home is worth on the open market, the Assessed value is what the county appraises your home at for tax purposes.

In the ballot language for Field for instance, the legal statement on the ballot issue says “Tax being an additional tax of 8.3 mills at a rate not exceeding 8.3 mills for each one dollar of valuation, which amounts to 83 cents for each one hundred dollars of valuation, for five years, commencing in 2017, first due in calendar year 2018.” Is it for each dollar of the Appraised valuation or Assessed valuation of the property being taxed? It is not clearly stated. I think we all can agree that the ballot language, which is actually dictated by the state all the way down to words that can be used and even what type size can be used, is anything but transparent. Instead of helping to inform on the issue so voters know what they are voting for or against, it is designed to obfuscate by using language not commonly used to discuss property value. Stating property valuation in terms of cents per $100 dollars in valuation is like describing gas milage by the cost in cents to drive 100 feet.

How about adding some perspective as well. They are always talking about how little the additional tax is, but they don’t tell the voter what the total cost actually is in their community!  While the new levy for a fitness center in Kent, which thankfully failed, would add “just” $172.80 per year in taxes to the Assessed value of a $60,000 home (worth $175,000) it would in fact raise the total taxes on that home to $4,550 per year or $379 PER MONTH!

Now I will admit that I was not specific enough in my language in our robo calls either. I did not use the words Appraised or Assessed, as I was just using the actual non-precise ballot language as the basis for the description of the new tax in our calls. However, when I said in the case of the Crestwood levy that “a person who owns a $100,000 home, or rents one, will pay $450 per year in new taxes.” That statement is true even if you insert the word “Assessed” into the statement as property with an “Appraised Value” of $285,000 would have an “Assessed Value” of $100,000 and would therefore pay an additional $450 in taxes, as I stated.

Now, since your newspaper falsely accused me of communicating “clearly false information” let’s talk about the school districts and other government entities who actually do intentionally communicate “clearly false information” when trying to pass a levy.  Your reporter, and many of those who complained about our call, took issue with my statement that these new taxes will be paid by renters as well as home owners. To your reporter’s and your newspaper’s credit, in your initial story you printed my explaination that of course renters pay these taxes because their rent must cover the total expenses involved with the rental property. However, school districts and other government agencies routinely and intentionally leave out this fact not just in the ballot language but in their presentations to the public as well. The US Census shows that 31.3% of homes in Portage County are not owner-occupied, but are renter-occupied, which is a huge block of voters – all of whom pay these taxes through their rent. However, through omission, school districts and other government agencies intentionally want these voters to believe that they can vote for these taxes to get the benefits without paying for them.  That is “clearly false.”

Then there is the other “minus” from the election where, in your opinion, tax payers “claim they can’t afford any tax increase”, as if there is no evidence to support their position, and you opine that “there has to be a better way to ensure our schools have proper funding.”  We do properly fund our schools and have all our lives, but we simply can’t afford any more, and we are not getting what we pay for as far as educational outcomes. Take a look at the Report Cards for the Schools in Portage County. Even you admit in your coverage that schools have declining student enrollments and yet have increasing expenses. Why is that? How can you have less students, on whom schools are supposed to be spending our money, and have increasing expenses unless the schools are being mismanaged?

What you nor the school districts talk about is how in the past three years something like 33% of the oldest and highest paid teachers have retired because of dramatic changes in their state retirement plan.  If a teacher did not retire by last June, they could lose as much as 11% of their retirement for life based on the new rules. So, every school district in Portage County has had dozens of teachers retire who’s cost to tax payers, including $24,000 per year in health care costs in many cases among other perks, approaches or exceeds $100,000. They have been replaced with younger teachers who are paid $60,000 including benefits. This has saved each school district millions per year in costs, and where has that money gone?  Plus, with lower student enrollment, why are some of them even being replaced?  Why are classroom student sizes so small, when there is no evidence of improved student achievement?  This practice adds more teachers at our expense and provides no benefit! That is mismanagement. In the real world taxpayers live in, if you make less product, you spend less money.

Not to mention the insanity of school districts wanting to build new buildings with 30 years mortages when they have no idea what type of buildings, if any, students 25 years from now will need!  I always find it interesting when public school systems sell old buildings and Christian schools buy them up and fix them up for their purposes because buying old buildings keeps costs down compared to building new ones. We should not be building any new school buildings in Ohio today, particularly since we have seen zero improvement in educational outcomes in districts that have built new buildings. We should be modernizing our old buildings, and consolidating buildings and even school districts themselves to be more efficient with the money taxpayers already pay. The bottom line is that not only should these school districts not be asking for new levies, we should be repealing existing levies and they should be giving taxpayers some of their money back as student enrollment declines and teacher costs drop! The problem is not “proper funding” as you assert in your editorial, it is “proper management” and respect for the taxpayers’ money.

It has been said that “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.” Stop putting the same levies up over and over again. It is long past time to stop the insanity of our failed public school systems, which have not failed due to the lack of funding, but have failed because it’s focus is on creating well paying jobs for adults, instead of creating superior educational outcomes for students. This is proven by school districts like Ravenna and Crestwood who only spend 66% of the money on classroom instruction and the rest on highly paid and/or unnecessary administrators. To quote my “friends” in the teachers union every time a levy comes up “Don’t you care about the children?” It’s pretty clear our schools, not individual teachers, but the unions and the administrations, care very little about the children while caring a whole lot about themselves!

It should be noted that none of the renewal levies were defeated in Portage County because we have not yet decide to take that path. All of the increases were defeated by large margins in part thanks to our calls educating the public. Since the TEA Party began in 2009 it is estimated that the educational efforts of the Portage County TEA Party has saved Portage taxpayers as much as $14 million per year in unnecessary taxes. That is a total of $110,000,000 in savings while still providing “proper” funding for schools, cities, parks and rec and the county. We are proud to have provided these services to our community.

Thomas R. Zawistowski
President
Ohio Citizens PAC

TEA Party Groups Settle with IRS on Targeting Charges

PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release: Thursday, October 26, 2017

IRS SETTLES WITH PORTAGE COUNTY TEA PARTY AND 35 OTHER GROUPS
ADMITS WRONGDOING AND ISSUES APOLOGY

WASHINGTON – Today, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) announced that they have agreed to settle the lawsuit brought by the Portage County TEA Party and 35 other TEA Party and conservative groups for the targeting of TEA Party Groups during the Obama Administration. In the settlement the IRS acknowledges that its treatment of the TEA Party groups was wrong, details how it has installed procedures to assure that such targeting never happens to any other Americans ever again, assured the TEA Party groups that they would not be subject to any future scrutiny by the IRS, and expressed “its sincere apology” for the way it had treated the groups.

Paragraph 40 of the Settlement states, “The IRS admits that its treatment of Plaintiffs during the tax-exempt determinations process, including screening their applications based on their names or policy positions, subjecting those applications to heightened scrutiny and inordinate delays, and demanding of some Plaintiffs’ information that TIGTA determined was unnecessary to the agency’s determination of their tax-exempt status, was wrong. For such treatment, the IRS expresses its sincere apology.”

Tom Zawistowski, Executive Director of the Portage County TEA Party said, “It has been a long and hard fight for justice. I, and the thousands of members of the Portage County TEA Party both past and present, are very gratified by the settlement agreed to today with the Internal Revenue Service. We accomplished our goals of exposing the tyranny of our government under the Obama Administration, doing something to stop it, and making sure it doesn’t happen again as I announced at our Washington press conference on May 16, 2013. Not many people can take on any government agency, let along the IRS, and win. We thank the ACLJ for the tremendous multi-year legal effort representing us in court. We thank Congressman Jim Jordan, Darrel Issa, Trey Gowdy, Senator Ted Cruz and others for stopping the attacks by the IRS after we made them aware of the Targeting. The bottom line is that, with this Settlement, no one can deny that the IRS targeted American citizens because of their political beliefs and that it was wrong to do so. They admit that, and much more, in the Settlement, just as Lois Lerner admitted it back in 2012.”

Zawistowski continued, “This process started for us in 2010 when we first applied to be a 501(c)4 tax-exempt organization. The targeting by the IRS started in 2011 right after the TEA Party had stunned the Democrats by electing 64 Republicans to take back the US House in 2010. The IRS Targeting continued right through the 2012 election and cost our organization both membership and donations as people were afraid that the IRS would come after them personally simply for being a member of the Portage County TEA Party. Other groups across the nation suffered the same damages. The goal of the Obama Administration was to use the IRS to shut down the TEA Party Movement to insure President Obama’s re-election in 2012. While they did not succeed in permanently crippling the TEA Party movement, as we proved in 2016, President Obama did manage to illegally use the force of the Federal Government to weaken us enough to narrowly win re-election with the help of a terrible Republican candidate in Mitt Romney.”

Zawistowski concluded, “It is wrong that people like Lois Lerner, Holly Paz and IRS Commissioner John Koskinen could not even be fired for their actions under the laws of the time, and in our opinion should have faced criminal charges, for what they did to thousands of American citizens who were just using their constitutionally guaranteed rights of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. Since the targeting by the IRS, Congress actually passed a law, which was written by Ohio Congressman Jim Renacci, that now allows the IRS to fire any employee that inappropriately takes action against any American taxpayer. I would also note that this settlement does not affect the continuing class action law suit being brought by dozens of TEA Party Groups against the IRS that is working through the Federal District Court in Cincinnati. I am still active in that suit as a representative of the Ohio Liberty Coalition of which I was the President during the time of the targeting. Neither the suit settled today nor the one in Cincinnati gets to the reasons why the targeting was initiated by the IRS. Only a DOJ appointed Special Counsel would have the ability to truly investigate who in the Obama Administration was involved with the IRS Targeting and we are still hopeful that one day the American people will come to know the truth about this horrific abuse of government power.”