Monday, May 21, 2001

Butler Co. commission will impose higher tax

Extra $16M intended to boost development

By Randy Dunham
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Butler County residents can expect a sales tax increase that will be targeted at boosting the county's business and industrial base.

        “We're prepared to move forward with this,” said County Commissioner Mike Fox. “Chuck (Furmon) and I favor the half percent but Courtney (Combs) seems to favor the quarter percent.”

        Commissioners announced last week they were going to impose an increase to fund future projects that would position the county to become a destination location for high-tech business and industry. They will discuss how much to raise the tax at their regular meeting today.

        Mr. Fox said the 0.5 percentage-point increase would amount to $16 million annually in additional revenue. The state allows counties to impose up to 1 percent in local sales tax. The county's sales tax is 5.5 percent and its current 0.5 percent share constitutes 25 percent of Butler's general fund.

Money for projects

               Commissioners said the money will fund a $200 million project that would include opening the eastern portion of the Michael Fox Regional Highway to Cox Road, and developing several hundred acres near there. In addition, Mr. Fox said Ohio 63 would become a major artery and allow for more extensive development. He said there also were other development opportunities.

        “It's important for people to understand this money will not be used to run Butler County. It will be used for projects that make us attrac tive to those who would like to locate businesses and industries here,” Mr. Fox said.

        Butler County voters have already rejected one sales tax increase this year. A 0.25 percentage point increase to fund mass transit failed May 8.

        County commissioners can enact the increase without voter approval.

Grumbling can be heard

               “I think it's a done deal,” West Chester Township Trustee Catherine Stoker said Sunday of the 0.5 percent increase. “I think it was a done deal a year ago. They didn't want to mention it then because it was an election year.”

        Ms. Stoker said commissioners are increasing the tax because they overspent on other projects, like a $35 million county office building and the regional highway.

        “If there's a way to do something, our commissioners find the most expensive way to do it,” she said.

        Opinions were divided among Butler County residents questioned Sunday.

        “We pay enough taxes already,” said Cecil Spicer of Hanover Township.

        “If it's for a good cause, yes,” said Clarissa Teeters, who recently moved to Hanover Township from Cincinnati. “I paid (6 percent) before and I'll pay it again, as long as it's for schools, transportation, community things. Not stadiums.”

        “I'm not opposed to it,” said Cathy Mayhugh of Monroe. “We need to concentrate on new ways of creating growth in Butler County because the traditional ways are no longer working. I think arts and culture can be a strong draw to this area.”


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