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Commission OKs Sales Tax Hike For Hamilton County

Bill Rinehart
Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel (left) lays out his opposition to the sales tax hike.

Hamilton County commissioners have approved a sales tax increase to deal with next year's budget shortfall. The two-tenths-of-a-cent hike will take effect in October as Hamilton County faces a $28 million deficit in 2019.

Commissioner Chris Monzel was the lone "no" vote on the board, citing "tax fatigue" among citizens. "We're hearing about a possible city of Cincinnati earnings tax, regarding their budget," he says. "With the property taxes increases that are due to reevaluation of a property, and senior services and library levies, and there's a potential SORTA sales or earnings tax brought out by citizens in the community."

Monzel recommended cutting spending and waiting to see if state aid increases next year. "It always seems to be easier to spend other people's money before you have to spend your own," he adds.

Commission President Todd Portune says another county sales tax ends in 2020, and that will take the overall rate below the current level. Voters approved a five-year, quarter-cent sales tax in 2014 to pay for the reconstruction of Union Terminal.

Monzel says this increase should have a sunset clause, but he did not make a formal proposal.

Commissioner Denise Driehaus says the amount of the county's budget deficit is very close to the amount of reduced state and federal funding. "The federal government and the state government, in my view, have shifted the tax burden to local communities," she says. "We could do the same thing. We could shift some of this burden to our local partners. I don't want to do that. The buck stops here."

Portune suggested shifting the burden would include higher 911 detail fees, higher property transfer taxes, and a reduction in the property tax rollback created to offset the stadium sales tax.

Driehaus also says the county can't rely on a change in state government leadership for more money. She says even if Ohio did restore the local government fund, it wouldn't cover the deficit, which has also been created in part by loss of Medicaid Managed Care sales tax and lagging state aid to the public defender's office.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.