As Reported by the House Energy and Environment Committee

124th General Assembly
Regular Session
H. B. No. 338

REPRESENTATIVES Core, Calvert, Sullivan, Allen, Webster, Husted, Lendrum, Kearns, Hollister, Kilbane, Fedor

To amend sections 1515.02, 1515.15, and 1515.24 and to1
repeal sections 1515.25, 1515.26, and 1515.27 of2
the Revised Code to eliminate the authority for3
referendums on assessments levied for improvements4
under the soil and water conservation statutes, and5
to require that property owners be notified of6
uniform assessments under those statutes by first7
class mail in lieu of notification by publication.8


       Section 1.  That sections 1515.02, 1515.15, and 1515.24 of9
the Revised Code be amended to read as follows:10

       Sec. 1515.02.  There is hereby established in the department11
of natural resources the Ohio soil and water conservation12
commission. The commission shall consist of seven members of13
equal status and authority, four of whom shall be appointed by the14
governor with the advice and consent of the senate, and one of15
whom shall be designated by resolution of the board of directors16
of the Ohio federation of soil and water conservation districts.17
The other two members shall be the director of agriculture and the18
vice-president for agricultural administration of the Ohio state19
university. The director of natural resources may participate in20
the deliberations of the commission, but without the power to21
vote. A vacancy in the office of an appointed member shall be22
filled by the governor, with the advice and consent of the senate.23
Any member appointed to fill a vacancy occurring prior to the24
expiration of the term for which histhe member's predecessor was25
appointed shall hold office for the remainder of suchthat term.26
Of the appointed members, two shall be farmers and all shall be27
persons who have a knowledge of or interest in the natural28
resources of the state. Not more than two of the appointed29
members shall be members of the same political party.30

       Terms of office of the member designated by the board of31
directors of the federation and the members appointed by the32
governor shall be for four years, commencing on the first day of33
July and ending on the thirtieth day of June.34

       Each appointed member shall hold office from the date of his35
appointment until the end of the term for which hethe member was36
appointed. Any appointed member shall continue in office37
subsequent to the expiration date of histhe member's term until38
histhe member's successor takes office, or until a period of39
sixty days has elapsed, whichever occurs first.40

       The commission shall organize by selecting from its members a41
chairmanchairperson and a vice-chairmanvice-chairperson. The42
commission shall hold at least one regular meeting in each quarter43
of each calendar year and shall keep a record of its proceedings,44
which shall be open to the public for inspection. Special45
meetings may be called by the chairmanchairperson and shall be46
called by himthe chairperson upon receipt of a written request47
signed by two or more members of the commission. Written notice48
of the time and place of each meeting shall be sent to each member49
of the commission. A majority of the commission shall constitute50
a quorum.51

       The commission may adopt rules as necessary to carry out the52
purposes of Chapter 1515. of the Revised Codethis chapter,53
subject to Chapter 119. of the Revised Code.54

       The governor may remove any appointed member of the55
commission at any time for inefficiency, neglect of duty, or56
malfeasance in office, after giving to the member a copy of the57
charges against himthe member and an opportunity to be heard58
publicly in person or by counsel in histhe member's defense. Any59
such act of removal by the governor is final. A statement of the60
findings of the governor, the reason for histhe governor's61
action, and the answer, if any, of the member shall be filed by62
the governor with the secretary of state and shall be open to63
public inspection.64

       All members of the commission shall be reimbursed for the65
necessary expenses incurred by them in the performance of their66
duties as members.67

       Upon recommendation by the commission, the director of68
natural resources shall designate an executive secretary and69
provide staff necessary to carry out the powers and duties of the70
commission. The commission may utilize the services of such staff71
members in the college of agriculture of the Ohio state university72
as may be agreed upon by the commission and the college.73

       The commission shall have the following duties and powersdo74
all of the following:75

       (A) To determineDetermine distribution of funds under76
section 1515.14 of the Revised Code, to recommend to the director77
of natural resources and other agencies the levels of78
appropriations to special funds established to assist soil and79
water conservation districts, and to recommend the amount of80
federal funds to be requested and policies for the use of such81
funds in support of soil and water conservation district programs;82

       (B) To assistAssist in keeping the supervisors of soil and83
water conservation districts informed of their powers and duties,84
program opportunities, and the activities and experience of all85
other districts, and to facilitate the interchange of advice,86
experience, and cooperation between suchthe districts;87

       (C) To seekSeek the cooperation and assistance of the88
federal government or any of its agencies, and of agencies of this89
state, in the work of suchthe districts;90

       (D) To adoptAdopt appropriate rules governing the conduct of91
referendums or elections provided for in Chapter 1515. of the92
Revised Codethis chapter, subject to Chapter 119. of the Revised93
Code, provided that only owners and occupiers of lands situated94
within the boundaries of the districts or proposed districts to95
which the referendums or elections apply shall be eligible to vote96
in such referendums orthe elections;97

       (E) To recommendRecommend to the director of natural98
resources priorities for planning and construction of small99
watershed projects, and to make recommendations to the director of100
natural resources concerning coordination of programs as proposed101
and implemented in agreements with soil and water conservation102

       (F) To recommendRecommend to the director of natural104
resources, the governor, and the general assembly programs and105
legislation with respect to the operations of soil and water106
conservation districts whichthat will encourage proper soil,107
water, and other natural resource management and promote the108
economic and social development of the state.109

       Sec. 1515.15.  A board of county commissioners may apply to110
the Ohio soil and water conservation commission for an advance of111
moneys from the soil and water conservation fund, which is hereby112
created in the state treasury, to enable sucha soil and water113
conservation district to pay all or part of the cost of surveys114
and plans, appraisals, estimates of cost, land options, and other115
incidental expenses of constructing works of improvement for a116
soil and water conservationthe district. The commission shall117
consider suchthe application and shall recommend an amount of118
moneys reasonably needed for suchthat purpose.119

       The order of the commission recommending the amount of such120
the moneys needed shall be certified to the controlling board. The121
controlling board shall then determine the amount to be advanced122
to the county and shall certify its action to the director of123
budget and management for payment.124

       All such amounts received by any such district shall be125
repaid by the board of county commissioners to the state126
immediately upon the receipt by the board of funds from the sale127
of bonds or from other sources whichthat may be used for that128
purpose, or in such number of equal annual installments, not129
exceeding five, and commencing at such time, as shall be specified130
in the order of the commission.131

       Upon receipt of sufficient and satisfactory evidence that the132
board and district have proceeded in good faith andIf an133
unfavorable referendum or court decision has denied the work of134
improvement, the controlling board, upon receipt of sufficient and135
satisfactory evidence that the board and district have proceeded136
in good faith and the recommendation of the commission, shall137
relieve the board or district of its repayment obligation.138

       Sec. 1515.24. (A) Upon receipt of a certification made by139
the supervisors of a soil and water conservation district pursuant140
to section 1515.20 of the Revised Code, the board of county141
commissioners may levy upon the property within the project area142
an assessment at a uniform or varied rate based upon the benefit143
to the area certified by the supervisors, as necessary to pay the144
cost of construction of the improvement not otherwise funded and145
to repay advances made for purposes of the improvement from the146
fund created by section 1515.15 of the Revised Code. The board of147
county commissioners shall direct the person or authority148
preparing assessments to give primary consideration, in149
determining a parcel's estimated assessments relating to the150
disposal of water, to the potential increase in productivity that151
the parcel may experience as a result of the improvement and also152
to give consideration to the amount of water disposed of, the153
location of the property relative to the project, the value of the154
project to the watershed, and benefits as defined in section155
6131.01 of the Revised Code. The part of the assessment that is156
found to benefit state, county, or township roads or highways or157
municipal streets shall be assessed against the state, county,158
township, or municipal corporation, respectively, payable from159
motor vehicle revenues. The part of the assessment that is found160
to benefit property owned by any public corporation, any political161
subdivision of the state, or the state shall be assessed against162
the public corporation, the political subdivision, or the state163
and shall be paid out of the general funds or motor vehicle164
revenues of the public corporation, the political subdivision of165
the state, or the state, except as otherwise provided by law.166

       (B) The assessment shall be certified to the county auditor167
and by the county auditor to the county treasurer. The collection168
of the assessment shall conform in all matters to Chapter 323. of169
the Revised Code. Any170

       (C)Any land owned and managed by the department of natural171
resources for wildlife, recreation, nature preserve, or forestry172
purposes is exempt from assessments if the director of natural173
resources determines that the land derives no benefit from the174
improvement. In making such a determination, the director shall175
consider the purposes for which the land is owned and managed and176
any relevant articles of dedication or existing management plans177
for the land. If the director determines that the land derives no178
benefit from the improvement, the director shall notify the board179
of county commissioners, within thirty days after receiving the180
assessment notification required by this section, indicating that181
the director has determined that the land is to be exempt and182
explaining the specific reason for making this determination. The183
board of county commissioners, within thirty days after receiving184
the director's exemption notification, may appeal the185
determination to the court of common pleas. If the court of186
common pleas finds in favor of the board of county commissioners,187
the department of natural resources shall pay all court costs and188
legal fees.189

       If the assessment is to be made at a varied rate, the(D)(1)190
The board shall give notice by first class mail to every public191
and private property owner whose property is subject to192
assessment, at the tax mailing or other known address of the193
owner. The notice shall contain a statement of the amount to be194
assessed against the property of the addressee, a description of195
the method used to determine the necessity for and the amount of196
the proposed assessment, and a statement that the addressee may197
file an objection in writing at the office of the board of county198
commissioners within thirty days after the mailing of notice. If199
the residence of any owner cannot be ascertained, or if any mailed200
notice is returned undelivered, the board shall publish the notice201
to all such owners in a newspaper of general circulation within202
the project area, at least once each week for three weeks, which203
notice shall include the information contained in the mailed204
notice, but shall state that the owner may file an objection in205
writing at the office of the board of county commissioners within206
thirty days after the last publication of the notice.207

       (2) Upon receipt of objections as provided in this section,208
the board shall proceed within thirty days to hold a final hearing209
on the objections by fixing a date and giving notice by first210
class mail to the objectors at the address provided in filing the211
objection. If any mailed notice is returned undelivered, the212
board shall give due notice to the objectors in a newspaper of213
general circulation in the project area, stating the time, place,214
and purpose of the hearing. Upon hearing the objectors, the board215
may amend and shall approve the final schedule of assessments by216
journal entry.217

       (3) Any owner whose objection is not allowed may appeal218
within thirty days to the court of common pleas of the county in219
which the property is located.220

       (4) After final notice is provided by mail or publication,221
or after the final disposition of an appeal in which the222
imposition of assessments is upheld, the board of county223
commissioners shall make an order approving the levying of the224
assessment and proceed under section 6131.23 of the Revised Code.225

       (5) The county treasurer shall deposit the proceeds of the226
assessment in the fund designated by the board and shall report to227
the county auditor the amount of money from the assessment that is228
collected by the treasurer. Moneys shall be expended from the229
fund for purposes of the improvement.230

       (E) Any moneys collected in excess of the amount needed for231
construction of the improvement and the subsequent first year's232
maintenance may be maintained in a fund to be used for maintenance233
of the improvement. In any year subsequent to a year in which an234
assessment for construction of an improvement levied under this235
section has been collected, and upon determination by the board of236
county commissioners that funds are not otherwise available for237
maintenance or repair of the improvement, the board shall levy on238
the property within the project area an assessment for maintenance239
at a uniform percentage of all construction costs based upon the240
assessment schedule used in determining the construction241
assessment. The assessment is not subject to the provisions242
concerning notice and petition contained in this section 1515.25243
of the Revised Code. An assessment for maintenance shall not be244
levied in any year in which the unencumbered balance of funds245
available for maintenance of the improvement exceeds twenty per246
cent of the cost of construction of the improvement, except that247
the board may adjust the level of assessment within the twenty per248
cent limitation, or suspend temporarily the levying of an249
assessment, for maintenance purposes as maintenance funds are250

       For the purpose of levying an assessment for maintenance of252
an improvement, a board may use the procedures established in253
Chapter 6137. of the Revised Code regarding maintenance of254
improvements as defined in section 6131.01 of the Revised Code in255
lieu of using the procedures established under this section.256

       (F) The board of county commissioners may issue bonds and257
notes as authorized by section 131.23 or 133.17 of the Revised258

       Section 2.  That existing sections 1515.02, 1515.15, and260
1515.24 and sections 1515.25, 1515.26, and 1515.27 of the Revised261
Code are hereby repealed.262