By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer
HAMILTON - Despite staunch opposition from real estate agents, Butler County commissioners decided Monday to raise the tax for property transfers to fill an $800,000 hole in the county general fund and to pay for a major park development.
By a 2-1 vote, commissioners raised the property transfer tax from 2.3 mills to 3 mills, the same level as Hamilton, Warren and Clermont counties.
The transfer tax hike will take effect in 30 days.That means the seller of a $200,000 house will pay a property transfer tax of $600 instead of $460.
With the state expected to make further funding cuts to counties this year, commissioners warned that more county tax increases may be on the horizon.
If necessary, they said, they will consider enacting a sales tax increase.
"We won't know what the further state cuts will be until July," Commissioner Mike Fox said. "If those cuts cause us to cut services, we may have to increase the sales tax."
Fox and Commissioner Courtney Combs voted for the property transfer tax increase, while Commissioner Chuck Furmon voted against it.
Furmon sided with the Realtors, who have vigorously opposed the tax hike.
The Realtors think the tax unfairly burdens a small sector of the population and will hinder property sales.
"Everybody's going to benefit from the tax, so let's have everybody pay," said Ross Hughes, president-elect of the Hamilton-Fairfield Board of Realtors. "Don't pick on a small segment. It's a political, expedient thing to do."
He asked commissioners to postpone their vote on the transfer tax until July, when they know how much deeper state funding cuts will be. But Fox said the county general fund needs money now.
"We have an $800,000 hole in our budget, and we're going to plug it."
Commissioners also designated 0.4 mills, or $600,000 a year, of the transfer tax to go to MetroParks.
The 0.4-mill tax for the parks runs for 10 years and replaces a five-year 0.3-mill property transfer tax for the parks that had been in effect since 1999. The additional revenue would pay for the development of a 200-acre park at Voice of America Park in West Chester Township, for improvements to existing parks and for the purchase of more land.
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