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Politics

Cincinnati property tax will go up slightly under another year of 'rollback'

cincinnati city hall
Jason Whitman
/
WVXU

Cincinnati property taxes will go up slightly next year, but not as much as some city officials wanted. Council voted 7-2 Wednesday to approve another year of a long-standing "rollback" policy, which caps general fund millage revenue at about $29 million.

The plan increases the rate from 3.97 mills to 4.96 mills. An alternative proposal recommended by the city administration would have increased the rate to the maximum allowed in the city charter: 6.1 mills.

"People are really, really struggling right now," said Vice Mayor Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney during discussion in committee Monday. "I think this would be a terrible time to stop that rollback; this would be a terrible time to raise property taxes."

Council Member Reggie Harris also voted in favor of the rollback, but says he has concerns about continuing the policy longer than that.

"I don't know that next year, when this comes up again, that I'll be able to say yes, let's continue to roll this back, knowing that we had a year to begin to address what is really at a crisis point," he said.

City administrators are predicting a $20 million budget deficit next fiscal year. If council followed the administration's recommendation, the increased rate would bring in about $3.7 million more.

Council members debated whether an extra $3.7 million in revenue for the city is worth the cost to homeowners — about $34 more a year for every $100,000 in home value.

The rollback policy dates back to 1997, when new Council Member Jeff Cramerding was working in then-Council Member Todd Portune's office. Cramerding says the "property tax holiday" proposed then was meant to be a one-time thing.

"Council has always found a reason to continue this rollback, which is harming our city budget," Cramerding said. "Times are good, we roll it roll back; times are bad, we roll it back. All the while costs are increasing with inflation. This is not sustainable fiscal policy."

Cramerding supported the administration's recommendation and voted against the rollback. (Note: since 1999, the "rollback" has been set at a specific revenue amount rather than a specific rate.)

Victoria Parks also opposed the rollback, saying it was initiated during good economic times and that's no longer the case.

"I choose to take a practical and realistic view of this: we're in trouble now, so we need to address this now," Parks said. "If we do a 6.1 millage … we're not building a hill, we're filling a hole."

The rate approved this week is for calendar year 2023. Council also approved the rate for the city's debt service at 7.5 mills, unchanged from this 2022.

The rates are part of the required tentative tax budget approved at the beginning of each year; it's due to the County Budget Commission by January 15.

See the administration's presentation on the tentative tax budget below:

Updated: January 12, 2022 at 2:56 PM EST
This story was first published on Jan. 7 and has been updated.