Saturday, December 28, 2002

Real estate transfer tax won't go up

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Hamilton County property owners won't have to pay a higher tax to sell their real estate next year.

Commissioner Tom Neyer, the swing vote on a proposed property transfer-tax increase, said at a special commissioners meeting Friday that he believed the county's $2.19 billion budget can be balanced without it.

"That's my strong aspiration and preference," he said, joining Democratic Commissioner Todd Portune in opposing the increase.

Commissioner John Dowlin said he remained concerned the budget does not have enough padding in case the state cuts its funding at mid-year.

Commissioners expect to formally vote on the 2003 budget Monday.

County Administrator David Krings had recommended increasing the county's discretionary part of the transfer tax from $2 per $1,000 of property value to $3 per $1,000 on top of a state-mandated tax of $1 per $1,000.

That would have meant a $600 transfer-tax bill for the seller of a $150,000 home and an extra $2.9 million a year for county coffers.

Mr. Krings agreed Friday that Hamilton County could balance its 2003 budget without an increase.

Late Friday afternoon, commissioners received a memo that balanced ongoing expenses and ongoing revenue by being $450,000 more optimistic about what the county will raise next year from court fees, recorder's office fees and the existing transfer tax.

Chris Finney, spokesman for a local anti-tax group, hailed the commissioners' decision.

"Hopefully it's a recognition long term that the commissioners need to control spending," said Mr. Finney, of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes.

Monday's meeting will be the last for Mr. Neyer, who did not run for re-election. Taking his place in mid-January will be former Cincinnati Councilman Phil Heimlich, who also opposed the tax increase.

Hamilton County's tax matches Warren and Clermont counties, although Warren County is considering raising its discretionary rate $1 per $1,000 of property value. Sellers in Butler County pay $2.30 per $1,000.


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