Friday, April 18, 2003

Warren waits on transfer tax

Increase depends on state funding

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LEBANON - Warren County commissioners held off raising the tax to sell real estate Thursday until they see how much, if any, of the county's local government funds are cut at the state level.

If the tax to sell real estate is raised, that would make Warren County's real property transfer tax the highest in Ohio, Realtors claim.

Last week, the Ohio House of Representatives voted not to cut local government funds. The Senate will start hearings on the issue next week. If the state can continue local government funding at present strength, Warren's tax increase likely won't be needed, commissioners said.

"The state originally was going to cut it 5 or 6 percent, then all of a sudden they were cutting 100 percent, then at the 12th hour, all 100 percent was back in," Commissioner Pat South said. "Had we lost 100 percent, that would have been $3 million lost in Warren County.

"If we don't suffer any kind of major fund shortage due to the state funding budget, then we have no need to implement this increase in the transfer tax," she said. "But we're holding it as a safeguard because that $3 million deficit scared us to death, quite honestly."

If approved, the real property transfer tax would rise from 3 mills to 4 mills, generating about $1 million a year in additional revenue.

One mill is the equivalent of $1 tax for each $1,000 of property value.

A similar move was approved last month in Butler County, where commissioners raised the property transfer tax from 2.3 mills to 3 mills, the same levels as Hamilton and Clermont counties.

Warren County commissioners plan to vote June 26 on their proposed tax increase.

In the meantime, county officials will consider whether to raise planning and zoning fees, South added.

Realtors were relieved Thursday that Warren County opted not to raise the tax at this time. They say it unfairly burdens a small sector of the population and will hinder property sales.

The increase in Warren would have meant a person selling a $200,000 home would pay $800 instead of the current $600. Commercial property holders would pay a $4,000 tax bill on a $1 million transaction, up from $3,000.

"I think they did the responsible thing. Transfer taxes are a wrong tax," said Gene Snavley, executive vice president of the Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors.


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