I-Team: Hamilton County property owners owe millions in delinquent taxes

Posted at 6:00 AM, Feb 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-24 11:40:36-05

CINCINNATI -- In the Village of Indian Hill, where mansions outnumber street signs, Rudolph Frank and his wife, Mazola, built their $3 million dream home. 

But their dream has been a tax collector's nightmare. 

Hamilton County Treasurer Robert Goering said that, during the last decade, the state received three judgments for liens totaling nearly $313,00. Goering has referred the Franks' delinquent property taxes to county prosecutors twice since 2011, including a current case claiming the Franks owe $121,000 in property taxes. 

"We've tried everything we can and we're not getting payments ... So we're sort of at our last resort," Goering said. 

That last resort is foreclosure. The 9 On Your Side I-Team left messages for Rudolph and Mazola Frank, but the couple didn't provide a comment for this story. Attorneys for both have separately filed responses in court claiming their clients can't be held responsible. 

"It's sad that it's had to come to this," Goering said. 

The Franks' home is just one of the properties in Hamilton County with owners behind on tax payments, according to Goering. County property owners pay about $1.6 billion altogether. Goering said the county is owed about $50 million for delinquent property taxes. 

Cove 51

Goering identified dozens of property owners who are delinquent on their property taxes. They include Klass Entertainment, the owner of Cove 51 Nightclub in Sharonville. Goering said Klass is delinquent on $19,000. If it's not paid within a few months, he said it will be referred to prosecutors. Klass did not respond to requests for comment.

Ed Renwick, the CEO of California-based Raineth Housing, previously told the I-Team his company owns 325 houses in Hamilton County and owes $600,000 in property taxes. Most of it was delinquent. 

MORE: Out-of-town landlord owes Hamilton County $600,000 in property taxes, fees and interest

"We're not happy about it," Renwick said. "We're behind in our taxes because we're behind in our profitability."

Raineth has negotiated payment plans for some of the delinquent property tax bills. In Goering's 27 years as treasurer, he said he's never seen a company that owns so many houses and owes so much in delinquent taxes. 

Most of the county's $50 million in delinquent property taxes should have been distributed to public school districts. Norwood City School District is owed nearly $900,000 of that money, according to Superintendent Kathy Sabo. 

"There's a lot that could be done with $900,000 in programming, in support of special needs students," Sabo said. "Whether they be gifted, typical or special ed students, $900,000 can go a long way."

When some property owners are delinquent, other taxpayers cover the costs. They spend more public money to collect the delinquent taxes, and more children are forced to wait for the tax money owed to their schools. 

Things could be worse. The $50 million owed in delinquent taxes represents only 4 percent of property owners, according to Goering. He said the rate is lower than in many large counties.

"We're lucky to live in Hamilton County," he said. "We really are."