Sunday, January 09, 2000

Monroe takes over more of its own billing

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MONROE — As development here increases and the population climbs, city officials are taking on new responsibilities.

        This month, the city took over billing for water, sewer and trash, which had been handled by the Butler County Department of Environmental Services since it took over Monroe sewers about 15 years ago.

        And in the spring, the city's tax department will begin billing for earnings taxes.

        “The city of Hamilton has collected those taxes for us since Monroe instituted an earnings tax in June of 1994,” Finance Director Dave Collins said. “I'll be very glad to get this all in-house. With a city this size (7,000 population), it's a lot more practical to do it yourself rather than outsource. When Monroe was a small village, it made sense to send it out.”

        Monroe will save an estimated $100,000 annually since it will not be paying Hamilton 5 percent to collect the estimated $2 million earnings taxes annually, Mayor Elbert Tannreuther said.

        Part of that money will be used to hire two new finance department clerks, who probably will be on board by February, and the city will take over the service by May, officials said.

        Hamilton is working with Monroe for a smooth transition.

        “One of our long-term goals has been to bring all this in-house,” Mr. Tannreuther said. “I'm glad it's finally happening. We certainly shouldn't lose any money on this, hopefully we should come out well ahead.”

        Having the earnings taxes collected by the city should allow Monroe to spend more time cross-checking residents and businesses and eliminate those that may be overlooked, the mayor said.

        Even though the actual water, sewer and trash billing was handled by the county, the city has always collected the money and turned the sewer portion over to the county, City Manager Don Whitman said.

        The service was a trade-off, with both communities benefiting. Now that Monroe will be doing all the work, the city will negotiate with the county for some type of compensation, he said.

        Mr. Whitman said the county wanted to stop billing for Monroe, so the change is mutually satisfactory.

        Derek Conklin, Butler County administrator, said with the county's recent computer program changes, this is an ideal time to end the billing practice.

        “We're glad we've been able to assist them for the past 15 years, but with our new computer system it's easier for them to take it over,” Mr. Conklin said. “And I think it will give Monroe a little more local communication ... a little more local control and a little more direct, local customer service.”


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