Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Council favors property tax cut

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Cincinnati City Council moved toward a property tax cut for city homeowners Monday - but who will get that cut and how much they'll get is in question.

City Council Republicans led the charge Monday, securing a 5-2 vote in the Finance Committee for a nonbinding resolution that would roll back property taxes.

Their plan would reduce the rate at which the city collects property taxes from 5.27 mills to 5.14 mills. Without the rollback, the tax would grow with increased property values and homeowners would get what Councilman Pat DeWine calls "an unvoted tax increase."

DeWine's proposed rollback would save the owner of a $100,000 home about $4 a year - and cost the city $872,000.

Though he supports the rollback, Democrat David Pepper is pushing a proposal that would tailor the tax break to senior citizens under a yet-to-be-devised formula. "The general property tax rollback mostly helps big industrial property holders," Pepper said. "I think this is a little more progressive tax relief."

The tax rollback debate happens at City Hall at least three times a year - in June, when the tax budget is submitted to the county auditor; in October, when City Council sets the rate; and in December, when council passes the budget for the next year.

This time, the debate comes less than five months before a council election, and the partisanship was clear Monday. DeWine said the issue is less about taxes and more about wasteful spending by Democrats at City Hall.

"It's only when we vote on property taxes that we hear that the city doesn't have enough money," DeWine said. "The rest of the year, we have plenty of money. We shouldn't be asking the taxpayer to bail us out of tough budget times when we're spending money on things that most people think are not priorities."

Democrat Y. Laketa Cole, a mid-term appointee voting on the tax rollback for the first time, said the budget is too tight to justify a tax break. "The way I see it is that $4 on a $100,000 home is not a lot of money, but $872,000 in the city budget is a lot of money."


E-mail gkorte@enquirer.com

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