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Hamilton County Sales Taxes Could Climb Come April 2019

Bill Rinehart
Commissioners question Administrator Jeff Aluotto about his quarter cent sales tax proposal.

Hamilton County's administrator is proposing a new sales tax to pay for operations. Jeff Aluotto says without new revenue, Hamilton County faces a $28 million deficit for 2019.

Aluotto's recommended solution is what he calls the "quarter cent scenario," which "would result in a temporary increase of the taxing capacity of the county by a quarter cent, which would then fall off," he says. This translates to paying an extra 25 cents for every $100 shoppers spend in the county.

A quarter cent sales tax already in place to pay for Union Terminal restoration work is set to expire in 2020, returning the sales tax amount to current levels.

If approved, the new sales tax would go into effect in April 2019. It could require the county to dip into reserves to cover spending for the first few months of the year.

"It would allow for essentially a half year of revenue at the quarter cent level, roughly $19 million in 2019. And then in 2020 for a full year of revenue, approximately $38 million," Aluotto says.

He repeated a message to commissioners Monday morning: There are no more big cuts to make. "We have done some of these through the recession, there's no more Queensgate jails to close. We can't reconsolidate the Planning Department."

Any sales tax increase would have to be approved by voters. Commissioners plan to hold public hearings in May.

He says he considered sales tax revenue because the county has capacity to increase it. Aluotto says property tax revenues have decreased since the recession and haven't rebounded.

"We've also seen the county auditor come out with information relating to the amount of tax abated property in this community that is also holding down levels of revenue, not just to the county but to any entity and political subdivision that's the recipient of property tax revenues."

Aluotto has said at previous budget meetings the county's finances have been squeezed by a combination of factors, including rising costs and decreasing revenues.

Other Hamilton County taxing authorities are also looking for more revenue. The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority is considering a new sales tax request to fund improvements to the Metro system. The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County is introducing a new property tax levy in November.