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Your home tax bill might shrink in 2016

Posted at 12:13 PM, Nov 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-16 12:13:51-05

You probably won’t have to pay as much on your property tax bill next year.

But don’t get too excited.

The savings will likely be enough to buy some mozzarella sticks off the McDonald’s Dollar Menu a few times in 2016. If you’re lucky enough to own a pricey home, you might be able to upgrade to a few meals.  

Hamilton County Administrator Christian Sigman proposed a bigger property tax rebate in next year’s budget. The proposal would give the owner of a $100,000 home in Cincinnati roughly $3.50 extra to spend next year, for example.

But one county commissioner wants that rebate to be bigger.

Commissioner Chris Monzel, a Republican, wants to use the county’s estimated $4.3 million share of casino revenues next year to pare down tax bills even further, instead of spending the money.

“We have a quite a sense of optimism that our region is actually emerging from this continued economic downturn,” Monzel said during a commission meeting Monday. “We also have to make sure we control our spending and right-size county government.”

No one agrees – yet – how that $4.3 million should be spent.

Sigman presented commissioners with a plan to use the casino cash to pay for the county’s general operations next year. Commissioner Greg Hartmann, also a Republican, wants to use $1.2 million of those funds to fight the heroin epidemic. Meanwhile, Commissioner Todd Portune, the board’s lone Democrat, wants to spend the casino money on funding economic development initiatives.

Portune argues that the county gets a share of casino revenues in order to create more economic development funding opportunities and that’s how the money should be used.

“The casino revenues were anticipated to use for economic development in the county, that’s how we’ve always discussed using the revenues: for economic development,” Portune said. “It’s not surprising that everybody wants to use the dollars for their own priorities.”

 

Cash from the state’s casinos first rolled in three years ago in July 2012. But those funds have been tied up because county commissioners used them to stabilize the troubled stadium fund, which pays for debt and costs associated with the Great American Ball Park and Paul Brown Stadium.

 

Money the county gets from sales tax pays for the stadium fund. But during the recession beginning in 2009, the county took a hit on sales tax revenues. The county, which struggled at the time to pay the stadium bills, used casino cash, in part, to stop the hemorrhaging.

Around the same time, county officials also walked back on a promise they made nearly two decades ago that gave property owners a break on their tax bills. Under the deal, the county officials are supposed to give back about a third of what they get in the sales tax.

This year, for example, the county brought in about $77 million in sales tax revenues. Only $13 million, or about 16 percent, of that was returned to homeowners.

Now that sales tax has rebounded — the county made an unexpected $5.1 million this year — homeowners will see a slight tax break on their bill in 2016. Sigman's proposed budget would increase the property tax rebate by $1 million next year, bringing the county's total refund for tax bills to $14 million. 

But Monzel’s plan would put another $4.3 million, the expected casino revenues, toward that property tax rebate. That would give the owner of a $100,000 home in Cincinnati about $19 extra next year, which is a lot of McDonald’s mozzarella sticks.

If the commissioners use the casino cash to pay for other things, like the property tax rebate, they’ll have to cut from other places. Monzel’s plan, for example, would hold the sheriff’s budget instead of allowing for a $6 million increase.

Commissioners will discuss the budget during an 11 a.m. Monday staff meeting at 138 E. Court Street, Cincinnati. They hope to pass an annual budget by the end of the month.