Saturday, April 03, 1999

Park officials push transfer tax

Realtors say levy would be more fair

Enquirer Contributor

        HAMILTON — Officials of the financially strapped Butler County Metroparks are pushing county commissioners to enact a 35-cent increase in the county's property transfer tax and earmark the new money for the park system.

        But the proposal has local real estate agents howling.

        The transfer tax, which applies to the sale of all real estate in Butler County, is $2 on every $1,000 of property value. Under current real estate activity, a 35-cent increase would generate about $437,000 for the park system, said Michael Muska, Metroparks director.

        The increase would be temporary and likely last between five and seven years, officials said. The park district operates 18 parks and sites covering more than 1,500 acres of land and water.

        The district has a $1 million budget and is the only major park system in Ohio not to have its own tax levy, Mr. Muska said. Voters have turned down three county park levies since 1992.

        “Funding has not kept pace with the growth of our system,” said Metroparks Commissioner Stanley Rullman. “We need parks for peo ple. It's a very important attraction to businesses.”

        Money from an increase in the transfer tax would be used for capital upgrades throughout the system and development of new park land, Mr. Muska said. The increase would come off early if a park levy is passed.

        The system gets its money from local government funds, grants, user fees and donations, Mr. Muska said.

        “All this has kept the park system going,” he said. “Still we need funding.”

        But local real estate agents argue that under the park board's proposal, park funding would be shouldered by only a small segment of the population — those who sell property.

        “We just feel it's an inequitable situation,” said Eugene Snavley, executive vice president of the Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors. “We're just not in favor of this funding mechanism. We think a levy is the place to be.”

        Representatives of the Middletown Board of Realtors and the Hamilton, Fairfield, Oxford Board of Realtors said they are also against the proposal. They said everyone — not just those involved in real estate transactions — should fund parks.

        Butler County commissioners will hold two public hearings on the request and are expected to make a decision later this spring. If enacted, an increase could take effect in June.


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