Saturday, June 02, 2001

Board holds menu of hikes for sales tax

Six possibilities could fund $100M in Butler Co. projects

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — When considering a proposed sales-tax increase, Butler County commissioners will look at a range of scenarios.

        The possibilities range from a 0.25 percent sales tax increase for five years, to a 0.5 percent increase that would remain in effect until 22 projects costing more than $100 million are funded.

        The commissioners unveiled on Thursday six possible sales-tax increase measures.

        These initiatives will be discussed in public hearings that have not yet been scheduled.

        “We want feedback from residents,” Commissioner Mike Fox said. “We haven't made up our minds.”

        The revenue from the sales-tax increase would be used for a variety of major road projects and other infrastructure work designed to spur economic development and help Butler become a Midwest center for high-tech businesses.

        The state would contribute money to eight of the projects.

        The sales tax in Butler is 5.5 percent, one of the lowest in the state.

        That tax includes the 5 percent state sales tax. The sales tax in Hamilton, Warren and Clermont counties is 6 percent.

        Butler's 0.5 percent sales tax generates about $16 million a year.

        These are the six scenarios the commissioners are considering:

        • A 0.5 percent increase for four years and then a reduction to 0.25 percent that would expire in 2010.

        • A 0.5 percent increase until 22 targeted projects are funded, which could take about 6 1/2 years. Then the sales tax would be reduced by 0.25 percent.

        • A 0.5 percent increase until the 22 projects are funded. Then sales tax would revert to 5.5 percent.

        • A 0.25 percent increase until the 22 projects are funded. The sales tax then would drop by 0.25 percent.

        • A 0.5 percent increase for five years. This would fund 80 percent of the targeted projects.

        • A 0.25 percent increase for five years. This would fund 40 percent of the targeted projects.

        Under the first four scenarios, all 22 projects could be funded.

        Mr. Fox and Commissioner Chuck Furmon have said they favor an initial 0.5 percent sales tax increase, but haven't decided how long it should be in effect. Commissioner Courtney Combs has said he hasn't decided whether he'll support a sales-tax increase.

        Mr. Fox raised the possibility that the Ohio 63 extension project could be taken off the list of targeted projects.

        He cited its high cost and uncertainty about whether Trenton officials support a sales tax increase.

        Trenton would be one of the primary communities benefiting from the extension of Ohio 63 from Monroe to north of Seven Mile.

        This $92 million project would require $27 million in county funds. It's by far the most costly of the 22 projects on the list.

        “Without additional taxes, I don't see a way to do this project,” Mr. Fox said.

        Even if Butler's sales tax is increased, the county will continue looking for alternative sources of funding for these projects, he said.

        “We'll have discussions with communities about how important these projects are to them,” Mr. Fox said.


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