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Brigid Kelly takes office as Hamilton County's first new auditor in three decades

brigid kelly
Brigid Kelly

The Hamilton County Auditor’s Office is under new leadership for the first time in over three decades.

Longtime auditor Dusty Rhodes did not seek re-election last year and officially retired this month. Fellow Democrat Brigid Kelly won the seat in November and took the oath of office last week.

"We have a great, talented, experienced staff who knows all of the nooks and crannies of the auditor's office," Kelly said. "Which I think is a tremendous benefit, not just to me coming in as sort of the new kid on the block, but also to the taxpayers in Hamilton County. Because they can be assured that the level of service that they've come to expect over the 32 years that Dusty was in office will continue with us."

Just five days into her term, Kelly released estimates for how seven tax levies on the May ballot will change tax bills. It's a tool the office has provided for the past 20 years.

You can see the estimates by looking up your property on and clicking "Levy Information."

Seven new or renewing property tax levies are on May ballots: in Delhi Township, Woodlawn, and four school districts — Forest Hills, Loveland, Northwest, and Winton Woods.

RELATED: Expect to see more school levies on ballots this year, and the years to come

Kelly says she wants to modernize the office and increase transparency, including updating the website to make the resources there more user-friendly.

Kelly spent the last six years in the Ohio State Legislature, where a law passed last year gives auditors the option to change the way they determine property value for affordable housing projects. Advocates say it could mean debilitating tax bills. Kelly says she needs more information before deciding how to move forward.

"Because there are not just this but other changes from the legislature, and also being proposed by the legislature, and so it's really important for us to have a very clear understanding moving forward before we say, 'This is the pathway that we're going to take,' " she said.

Kelly says she believes the new legislature will consider changing the law back. Some advocates say the law isn't even enforceable because of an earlier state Supreme Court ruling.

The new auditor will also play a role in implementing expected changes to the city of Cincinnati's residential tax abatement program.

"I've been joking around that I should get a t-shirt that says, 'We Don't Make Tax Abatement Policy,' " Kelly said. "But it is our job to implement the policy that local elected officials have passed."

That's true for everything, actually — the auditor's office is administrative, tasked with implementing policy set by other elected officials. It can makes priorities like keeping homeowners in their homes a bit more difficult.

COMMENTARY: Dusty Rhodes on 'ideological purity,' Trump and running for a 9th term

"But we are happy to work with folks as much as we can and provide them as much information as possible within the systems that exist to try to find pathways for people," Kelly said.

The auditor’s office also verifies weights and measures for things like putting gas in your car or buying a pound of deli meat at the grocery store. The office also manages dog licensing.

"Yes, you do need a dog license," Kelly says, adding, residents have until March 31 to get one.

Local Government Reporter with a particular focus on Cincinnati; experienced journalist in public radio and television throughout the Midwest. Enthusiastic about: civic engagement, public libraries, and urban planning.