BLUMER: Mason, OH, takes taxation without representation to new level

By   /   November 8, 2012  /   18 Comments

By Tom Blumer | Special to Ohio Watchdog

NEW TARGET: The Mason City Council persuaded voters to tax renters.

Ohio‘s quirky tax system affords its cities, villages and school districts far too much leeway to tax nonresidents without their consent.

Mason, Warren County‘s largest city, has just shown them how to double down on that idea while also inventing a new target: resident renters.

According to the Tax Foundation, Ohio municipalities first began levying income taxes in 1946. School districts gained that ability under Democratic Gov. Dick Celeste in 1989. As of 2011, the foundation says that “593 of Ohio’s 932 municipalities and 181 of Ohio’s 611 school districts impose an income tax.” According to’s Tonya Moreno, “Ohio local income tax rates range from 0.40 percent in Indian Hill to 3 percent in Parma Heights.” Separate school district income tax rates range from 0.25 percent to 2 percent.

These taxes are especially pernicious because the tax jurisdictions involved levy them on residents and nonresidents by primarily taxing gross earnings from employment. A majority of workers who pay these income taxes don’t live in the cities or school districts where they work. Many, if not most of them, only occasionally visit the jurisdictions which tax them during non-working hours. Nevertheless, they underwrite a large percentage of the cost of operating somebody else’s government and public schools without ever having a chance to vote on whether such a tax was a good idea, and without any input as to how these entities operate.

This is the very kind of “taxation without representation” over which the American Revolution was fought.

It gets worse.

If you live and work in jurisdictions which both have income taxes, the jurisdiction where you work, not the one where you live, gets to keep the money. Hordes of suburbanites subsidize the operating costs of Ohio’s larger cities, all of which have rates of 2 percent or higher, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year, while the towns where they live and more fully benefit from police, fire and other municipal services receive nothing. To partially address this problem, some suburbs have made part of all of their lower-rate income taxes “non-reciprocal,” forcing their residents to pay both where they live and where they work.

Mason has grown at a breakneck pace during the past several decades. Despite being an ostensibly conservative and Republican enclave, so has its appetite for taxes, particularly those it can levy on non-voters. Its income tax rate is a relatively modest 1 percent, but thanks to the presence of dozens of large employers within its original boundaries as well as others acquired though annexation, the tax has turned into a gravy train.

Faced with the withdrawal of $700,000 in state fire and emergency medical services funding — a tiny amount, given the city’s total budget of $40 million, which is a stunning $1,300 per resident — the City Council, fresh off a years-long municipal building spree, knew it couldn’t go to voters, particularly homeowners punished by high property taxes, to make part of its income tax non-reciprocal. Instead, using some of the most outrageous language I’ve ever seen on a ballot referendum, it asked them if they would be glad to push most of the financial responsibility for making up the shortfall onto nonresidents and renters.

Effective Jan.1, 2013, under Charter Amendment 7, which easily passed Tuesday with a 73 percent majority, nonresident workers and renters will see their income tax rate go up to 1.2 percent. Additionally, the amendment gives the City Council the ability to increase that rate to 1.5 percent in future years without voter approval. Nonresident workers who are paying for services they seldom if ever use will be paying a higher income tax rate than the city’s homeowners. Renters also will receive disparate and unfair treatment, as their landlords already pay city income tax on their net rental income.

One can expect other Buckeye State tax jurisdictions to consider imitating what Mason has done, thereby in the long run making the state a far less attractive place to build or expand a business and create jobs. There’s hardly anything easier than getting voters to approve of forcing people who have no say in the matter to support them financially.


  • This is straight BS, not the facts stated, but the fact You have be rich to own your own land so therefore taxing the middle class and poor when targeting renters and non voters in the area therefore targetting lower castes of our society you sure Republicans didn’t have something to do with this?

  • disqus_GbbI7KuWvX

    Ohio is a dump of a place to live in anyway, now it’s expensive too! I was born there but guess where I don’t live anymore?

  • must be Democrats…

  • I returned to Ohio when my dad was ill and family pressure demanded I return to my home state. Home is not always where one was born or live. Home is where your heart is and if your heart isn’t where you live it obviously is not home.
    Yet, here I am, stuck in Ohio where everything is done to make unions happy, black folk happy, and nothing is done for the masses who will pay those taxes they are so good at coming up with.
    Excuse me if this makes me sound racist. I am not, but I have lived a fairly large portion of my life in Cincinnati and have seen first hand how so much more goes to black communities, more effort, more money, more everything than anywhere else. It’s simply not fair to show preference to one, maybe we could say Cincinnati is guilty of reverse discrimination.

  • Mason used to be a desirable non-Cincinnati location. Now-a-days it’s a dump just like Cincinnati. LOL, It’s Cincynorth, just like so much of northern Kentucky is Cincysouth.

  • NO, Mason is full of ignorant dems who do not understand that renters already pay property taxes even if the bill does not come in their name. That’s that trickle down that dems simply can not understand at any level.

  • NavyDoc

    And people wonder why the south is growing and the north is slowly fading away.

  • connie daniels

    my son gets taxed in two cities, one where he lives and one where the corporate headquarters are. You can get that back at tax time, but most people don’t know only have to pay where you live. since no one makes a point (no doubt intentionally) to send out city tax forma no one gets that money back unless they know they can and make a point of getting a form.

  • Navy Doc I don’t agree with right to work states though.Thy wages paid there are lower than non right to work states.

  • Cherie Bronkar

    Yes, you made yourself sound racist…and yes you are! I agree with portions of the article….but seeing this kind of attitude to back it makes me want to lean the other direction.

  • As it said in the article, Mason is a mostly republican community. So quite insulting dems in your comments, folks. Regardless of political alliances, this taxation is unconstitutional and should be fought.

  • How is it that “so much more goes to black communities, more effort, more money, more everything than anywhere else,” while black communities such as Lincoln Heights have so much less?

  • If you crybaby teabaggers object to the payroll tax then go galt and quit your jobs. That’ll show them.

  • carl

    why do you have to go there i really hate calling names and brave typing if care to meet me some where we can see who really is the crybaby

  • Arv Palmer

    I really think that if renters are benefiting from the services (fire and police protection) or who have children who attend school, then they should pay a tax like anyone else who owns property in the taxing area or they should be made to pay to use the services or school.

  • Yeah, I paid income taxes in Mason for years. They’re getting richer while Middletown, where I lived was suffering in poverty, even though I paid an additional tax there Mason got the lion’s share

  • Joe Miller

    I am a conservative and registered Republican, and I disagree with your claim of taxation without representation. WE elected the idiots who are posing these taxes.

  • not when the tax is on non-residents.