Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Pepper proposes compromise to tax cut

Councilman's offering includes jock tax, creates refund system

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer



Cincinnati homeowners shouldn't spend their 2003 property tax cut just yet.

With Councilman Pat DeWine looking for the fifth vote to pass his plan to roll back property taxes from 5.4 mills to 4.8 mills, a compromise emerged Monday to give property owners some relief and still help balance the city's projected $35 million deficit.

Councilman David Pepper's compromise would:

• Roll back the property tax from 5.4 mills to 5.27 mills, which would save the owner of a $100,000 home about $4 to Mr. DeWine's $18.

• Enact the so-called "jock tax," making visiting athletes and performers subject to the city's 2.1 percent earnings tax.

• Crack down on tax deadbeats and "itinerant workers." Under Ohio law, lawyers, construction workers, salesmen and others who work in the city at least 12 days a year can be taxed on that income, even if their home and office are elsewhere.

• Create a homeowner property tax credit, similar to Hamilton County's stadium tax credit, that would refund taxes to homeowners anytime the tax collections are $2.5 million more than projected.

Mr. Pepper said his plan is budget-neutral, and could provide more tax relief to property owners in the long run. And given the shortage of votes for Mr. DeWine's proposal, Mr. Pepper's compromise seems to have the momentum going into Wednesday's final vote.

Indeed, even Mr. DeWine said he agreed with most of Mr. Pepper's plan, but voted against it because the property tax cut didn't go far enough.

City Council's Finance Committee debated the property tax for almost two hours Monday.

At the two political extremes, Mr. DeWine, a Republican, and Democrat David Crowley tried repeatedly to score debating points.

"None of the supporters of this resolution have given us one iota of indication of where the cuts are going to come from," Mr. Crowley said. "Is it going to be reduced police service?"

"I'll tell you what I want to cut. We need to do a better job in not funding pet projects," Mr. DeWine said, rattling off a list that included city-owned golf courses and the Blue Ash Airport. "But what I think you should also ask taxpayers, Mr. Crowley, is what they should cut from their budgets to pay this tax?"

Chairman John Cranley took it as a hypothetical question, but Mr. Crowley didn't. "I made a whole list. A couple six packs. Two pizzas. A night at the movies," he said. "For $18, are you as a citizen of Cincinnati willing to give up a senior center?"

E-mail gkorte@enquirer.com

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