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Hamilton County Suggests, "Tax Swap"
HAMILTON COUNTY, Ohio (Jeff Hirsh) -- It is the best sounding Hamilton County budget in at least five years.
The gloom and doom, cutbacks and layoffs are gone replaced with a sense of growth. Although that growth is slow, it's billed as a no tax increase budget. But as Local 12 News reporter Jeff Hirsh shows us, that depends on whether or not you own property.
Revenue is up and that means, without overstating things, that we are on the road to recovery from the tough recession that we've been through. The County Administrator's proposed $204 million budget for Hamilton County, 2014, is not light reading for the beach. But it could make county employees smile.
No layoffs, after 1500 job cuts the past 5 years. The administrator is also proposing a tax swap, a 1/4 cent increase in the sales tax, in return for a reduction in the property tax. Revenue neutral, no new programs, just a different tax collection philosophy, not a countywide tax hike.
County Commissioner Todd Portune (D) says, This budget is balanced, it will be balanced without an increase in taxes.
That's for next year. But long term, administrator Christian Sigman says Hamilton County needs a game changer, to make the county more competitive economically.
It's a three- pronged strategy. More spending on economic development, more on public safety, like a new crime lab and more jail beds, and more changes in tax policy. That long term change, only a suggestion at this point, would add yet another quarter cent to the sales tax, pushing it to 7 and a quarter per cent.
That long term plan would have a tax increase.
Sigman says, The magnitude that I describe in those investments are in the order of $30-$35 million a year range, so it would be very difficult to shoehorn it into the base budget. But those are longer looking projections and not the kind of thing you could include in 14 anyway.
But there is one more thing for 2014. While the tax swap is not a tax increase countywide, there's no increase in county revenue. If you don't own property in Hamilton County, your sales tax would go up, without a corresponding decrease in property taxes.
The tax swap would save the owner of a $100,000 dollar home about 15 dollars a year. There is at least one potential controversy in the administrator's proposal, taking six million dollars away from UC medical center. Money now used to help cover the poor and use it to pay for transportation and guards for jail inmates who go to the hospital.
Commissioners expect to approve the 2014 budget next month.