Mr. Gara and Mr. Bickel: Conscientious objectors?

Recently, the Wilmington News Journal properly chronicled the life and lecture of Professor Larry Gara, a well-known Conscientious Objector. His strong personal stand against perceived government wrong is a model that is being presented to college youth as a proper expression of free speech and moral clarity.

Now consider the plight of another objector, Mr. Howard Bickel. He has clearly and forcefully identified a serious government wrong in his recent letter to the editor. Mr. Bickel details how the State of Ohio uses its power of taxation to change his real estate tax of $4,800 in 2013 to a real estate tax of $13,600 in 2015. Mr. Bickel represents the egregious wrong forced upon all CAUV farmers in Ohio.

The auditors in Ohio counties, upon the direction of Mr. Testa of the Ohio Department of Taxation, “calculated” a new tax formula to apply to farmers and landowners like Mr. Bickel. Their formula “calculates” his corn to be worth $4.55 per bushel and his soybeans to be worth $11.09 per bushel. Mr Bickel knows there is no place anywhere in Ohio where he can sell his grain for these prices any time in 2015.

The treasurers throughout Ohio counties issue tax-demand invoices with the new “calculated” amounts. The message is simple — pay in 30 days or face a 10 percent penalty plus interest until paid in full. Meanwhile, the list of delinquent real estate tax grows and grows.

While Mr. Gara did lose his employment and personal freedom for a time, Mr. Bickel is forced to work longer and harder to produce more of the food products every citizen consumes daily. Mr. Bickel has no way to pass on the increased expense of real estate taxes. He is forced to accept the prices offered by our market system for his grain. Any reasonable person that reviews the dilemma of Mr. Bickel could reasonably conclude that when the State of Ohio changes his real estate tax from $4,800 in 2013 to $13,600 in 2015, something is drastically wrong with the formula!

So what can a modern “Conscientious Objector” do? First, the governor needs to get off the campaign trail long enough to convince the necessary political leaders and taxing authority to fix this mess. It may be an effective political policy to bloviate about “reducing taxes in Ohio for 98 percent of the population”, but meanwhile the two percent who produce food for everyone arebeing systematically robbed. That is terrible public policy.

Failure to correct the real estate tax imbalance will result in significant disruption to all renewal tax levies that are funded by real estate taxes. Fire departments, libraries, parks and schools will suffer from failed levies until the formula is fixed.

Bill Settlemyre