COLUMBUS—State Senator Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) introduced Senate Bill 333 this week, which will require the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to make payments in lieu of taxes (PILT) to local governments and school districts to make up for tax revenue lost as the State of Ohio purchases the AEP ReCreation Land property.
“The AEP land acquisition is an incredible opportunity for the State of Ohio to expand its outdoor recreation assets for sportsmen and families alike,” Schaffer said. “I appreciate the efforts of AEP and ODNR to preserve this property for generations to come.”
“Though I am supportive of the State’s decision to acquire this land, it comes at the cost of the local governments’ and school districts’ funding,” Schaffer said. “This legislation will expand the ODNR PILT program to restore funding to local governments and school districts that have lost property tax revenue due to this significant land purchase by ODNR.”
The bill will only apply to acquisitions over 5,000 acres in one transaction or a series of transactions from the same seller dating back to January 1, 2019. Current law helps replace property taxes lost as a result of ODNR land acquisitions by issuing a payment for local school districts that is just one percent of the total value of the land owned in a county by the State of Ohio and administered by ODNR. There is currently no PILT available for other local governments.
“The changes in this legislation will help prevent a catastrophic loss in property tax revenue that helps fund townships, schools, children’s services, developmental disabilities boards, senior citizen programs and other essential county-wide services in these affected areas,” Schaffer said. “For example, two townships in Morgan County are losing about half of their revenue and Morgan Local School District is losing about five percent.”
According to the estimates from the Morgan County and Muskingum County Auditor’s offices, tax revenue losses from the AEP ReCreation Land purchase will take full effect by June, 2022. Morgan County will see annual total losses of more than $318,000 and Muskingum County will see total annual losses of more than $163,000.
“These are devastating losses that can not be sustained by these local governments, nor should they be made up by local taxpayers who can not afford the added tax burden and will see little direct financial benefit from the land acquisition,” Schaffer said.
Morgan Local School District Superintendent Dr. Kristin Barker says she is supportive of the measure. “I am, of course, extremely grateful that the senator is proposing this legislation to assist districts like ours that experienced significant financial loss due to land acquisition. This bill will allow impoverished districts such as ours not to be adversely affected by situations that are beyond their control,” Barker said.
Morgan County Engineer Stevan Hook, PE, PS, had this to say on Schaffer’s proposed legislation: “In small rural counties such as ours, when the State owns a major portion of a local governmental jurisdiction, it becomes impossible for the locals to execute their required responsibilities once they lose their tax base, particularly at the township and local school levels.”
“If passed, Senate Bill 333 will replace the tax revenue loss from Ohio Department of Natural Resources purchases of American Electric Power land. With these exempted land purchases, the loss of tax revenue will be devastating to the affected subdivisions of Morgan County,” Morgan County Auditor Gary Woodward said.