HAMILTON COUNTY, Ohio — As Hamilton County works to finalize how it’ll spend $159 million from the American Rescue Plan, there’s a push to make good on a promise made nearly 30 years ago.
In the 1990s, Hamilton County passed a tax plan to pay for new stadiums on the riverfront – as part of that, 30% of the money was supposed to go back to homeowners and reduce property taxes. That hasn’t been fully honored.
“This was a critical part of passing that stadium sales tax levy; that of course was the first thing to do when times got tough,” Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes said. “Most people understood that. But now times are flush, and they’ve got a rare opportunity to make good on their promise.”
Rhodes said he’s asking the county commission to do just that.
“It affects a lot of people; it spreads the bonus to everybody,” Hamilton County Commissioner Alicia Reece said. “I think it’s something we definitely have to look at.”
She said it’s an option worth exploring.
“We’ve got to try and help people stay in their homes, and property taxes is an issue,” Reece said. “So many people are getting hit with property taxes. The assessments have gone up, new development comes into a neighborhood where there’s tax abatements."
The only problem with the idea is that federal guidelines say the money can’t be used to offset a tax reduction. Rhodes believes the way the stadium tax credit was labeled, not as a tax reduction but an assistance fund, could mean it would qualify.
“That’s the only way they could get it past the state constitution when they built the stadiums 25 years ago,” Rhodes said.
County administrator Jeff Alluto said he's waiting for guidance from the U.S. Treasury to determine how the county can proceed.
“It’s not the end-all, but I think people need a break right now, to begin to stabilize themselves as we look toward the future of what might be available,” Reece said.
No timeline was given for when the county will hear back from the treasury. The commission hopes to approve its funding allocation close to July 1.