Why did I get taxed?
You own land that is part of group that receives permanent maintenance of its ditch or tile. If you’ve never heard of the Seneca County Ditch Maintenance Department (overseen by the Seneca Conservation District) it’s not because we’re new or just creating new taxes! The Department has been around for more than 40 years and is responsible for more than 100 different groups and over 350 miles of ditches and tile. The Ditch Maintenance Department also has the responsibility, through Ohio Revised Code, to collect the cost of the necessary maintenance for each ditch or tile from the group of individual parcels that benefit from the work. Hence the reason for taxes.
This is a newly improved ditch that will now be placed into the Ditch Maintenance program to protect the investment that the landowners made to get it to this point. Just like your home, buildings and vehicles, maintenance is a must if you want them to last and function well. Ditch maintenance also costs money and can seem like it gets expensive. If you remember how much you (or a previous landowner) had to pay to get it in the first place or what it would cost to replace or rebuild the entire ditch (home, building or car), then the small percentage seems acceptable.
So what am I paying for?
Every year the staff inspect each group’s ditch and/or tile to determine what maintenance work is needed, estimate cost, and determine what share of the total cost to collect from the individual parcels proportionate to how much they benefit. This amount is then collected via a special assessment on your annual tax bill. If for some reason the planned work is not able to be completed in the year it was inspected and identified, the dollars collected are held in the group’s earmarked account until the following year when the work is performed. This year, some groups had to pay more than in previous years because the balance of their account did not meet the new standard. The standard balance needs to be reevaluated to protect and ensure financial security for all the groups moving into the future.
If there is a good tax, this special assessment is it! Our technician and team take great pride in keeping your costs low and accurately estimating/tracking what is needed, collected, and spent for your property’s benefit. The varying amount of tax from year to year is also good because we don’t collect money from you that we don’t need. The ditch maintenance special assessment is the most personalized and directly beneficial tax around. It is also adds value to your property by ensuring the land will always have drainage, no matter what your neighbors or other group members decide to do with their land.
Just what is a group?
To understand what a group is, we should start with a ditch. Pictured above, it is used to move water to larger bodies of water. If we didn’t have ditches (and maintain them) we would be living on the edge of the Black Swamp. Ohio Laws say that whoever “benefits” from the water being moved is/are responsible for the maintenance (and costs) of the ditch. Since more than one person usually benefits from having “their” water moved through the ditch, we use the word “group” to describe all those who benefit and are responsible for the ditch maintenance costs.
Above is a little different way to look at a group. The purple and blue squiggle line is the location of the river. The white bubble around the river is the all the land that drains to the river and thus benefits from having the river to move water. This white bubble would also be the group that would be responsible to pay for any maintenance of the river. (Someone is Louisville does not pay for any maintenance of the purple squiggle line, because they don’t benefit from having their water move through it. The same illustration can be made for a person in a group near Bettsville. They do not pay for maintenance on a ditch near Attica.)
What is a watershed?
As you can see there are many different uses of land in a watershed (an area of land that drains to a point). Watersheds can be the size of 16 counties that drain into the Western Lake Erie Basin, or the back 40 acres that drain into the road ditch. While all uses in this illustration do have negative impacts on the water, each person does maintain the right to do whatever they want on their land. There are some things your group could volunteer to do that would reduce the cost of maintenance. If you would like some advice on filter strips, erosion control, conservation farming, stream bank stabilization, or some of the other conservation practices that can help reduce the amount of maintenance required on your ditch, please call the office!
This year the Ditch Maintenance Department made a change to the base amount each group carries over from year to year. The reason for the change was to reach a standard, county-wide base amount in the account of each ditch and tile group that also is proportional to the size of the ditch/tile and the number of individuals that benefit from the drainage. If you have questions about your 2016 special assessment, the Ditch Maintenance program, or need drainage assistance in Seneca County, please call or email! (419) 447-7073.
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