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Commissioners consider Hamilton County sales tax hike

Posted at 1:28 PM, Jun 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-11 19:32:07-04

NORWOOD, Ohio -- If you spend time in Hamilton County, you could pay more in sales tax next year.

The fund that pays for sheriff patrols, murder investigations and the local jail faces a $28 million blow to its budget next year. Commissioners have until June 18 to figure out how they'll address that shortfall.

The county held a hearing about the budget Monday night.

"I think the comment that was made about two years ago is, 'You get to a point where the only thing left to cut is bone.' When you've cut out all the fat and started cutting into the meat of your operations - what you're required to do - there's nothing really left to cut," County Commissioner Todd Portune said. "And we find ourselves about, if not at that point, very, very close to that point."

Administrator Jeff Aluotto recommended a quarter-cent sales tax hike. That comes out to an extra 25 cents for every $100 spent.

Currently, Hamilton County collects a 7 percent charge on every purchase made. If commissioners agree to the sales tax hike, it would go to 7.25 percent.

When a quarter-percent tax used to fund Union Terminal restoration expires in 2020, the county sales tax is expected to decrease back to 7 percent.

Cuts alone will not fix the budget, Aluotto said: The county has spent the last decade trimming costs -- from closing a jail to selling off a public hospital to laying off hundreds of workers -- leaving little left to cut from.

The sales tax increase could start as early as next April, if the three-member commission signs off on the plan. The increase would fill the county's bank account with an extra $38 million every year.

The commissioners have the power to increase sales taxes directly, or they can ask voters to approve the plan in November election.

The county's finances will be in their worst shape since the Great Recession, Hamilton County Commission President Todd Portune previously said.

You can review Aluotto's budget proposal here.