Extra fee for shoppers at $300M Liberty Center complex

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Extra fee for shoppers at $300M Liberty Center complex

SALES TAX BY COUNTY

Butler County: 6.25%

Liberty Center: 6.75% (proposed)

Hamilton County: 6.5%

Warren County: 6.5%

Montgomery County: 7%

Source: Ohio Department of Taxation

Shoppers and diners at Liberty Center, the proposed $300 million retail, office and residential complex set to open here next year, will likely be charged an extra fee on their purchases.

Liberty Twp. trustees Tuesday asked the county to establish a taxing authority to collect an extra 0.5 percent sales fee from shoppers and tenants of Liberty Center to help finance the project.

The taxing authority, dubbed the Liberty Community Authority, will consist of a seven-member board selected by Butler County and the project’s developer, Steiner + Associates, said Caroline McKinney, the township’s economic development director. The creation of the authority still needs to gain approval from Butler County Commissioners.

County officials said last month they will pitch in $20 million toward the more than $300 million project, and Liberty Twp. has committed $5 million. That money, borrowed through bonds, will be used to finance new roads, sidewalks or parking at the retail center. Taxes collected in the area, called a tax increment district, will be used to pay off the bonds.

Butler County is one of four counties to boast the state’s lowest sales tax rate at 6.25 percent, according to Ohio Department of Taxation records. When shoppers buy at the Liberty Center, they’ll pay a total of 6.75 percent in both sales tax and the 0.5 percent sales fee.

Liberty Twp. and county officials have been negotiating financial details with Columbus-based Steiner + Associates for nearly four years.

Steiner + Associates officials have said construction on the project is slated to begin this fall.

Tuesday’s meeting gave a first, official look at how local tax dollars will be used to fund the multi-million dollar project and signaled a major step to making the mega-retail center a reality.

Steiner + Associates told county officials the extra sales tax will not hinder shoppers from flocking to Liberty Center, said Charles Young, Butler County Administrator.

“I don’t think (the sales tax) will have a bad affect at all,” Young said. “The people that are going there are going for the ambiance, they’re paying a little more for sales tax. They’ll have upscale streets and upscale facades. This is by no means countywide.”

He compared the additional fee to the additional tax communities charge people who stay at hotels.

The Greene, a Dayton-based retail center also developed by Steiner + Associates, does not charge an extra sales tax.

Steiner + Associates declined to comment on the impact the additional 0.5 percent tax will have on Liberty Center revenues.

Steiner + Associates will also levy an extra tax assessment for tenants who set up shop in the Liberty Center. Officials did not specify the amount of that assessment Tuesday.

Those plans will also need to get approval from Butler County Commissioners later this year. And, before shovels hit ground on Liberty Center, local officials will need to sign a master development agreement with Steiner + Associates.

Young said county and township officials are working to finalize all of the agreements associated with the Liberty Center within the next three months so Steiner + Associates can break ground on the project later this year. Steiner + Associates announced earlier this spring that a Dillard’s department store and CineBistro, a dinner and movie theater, will be tenants of the complex.

“All of these things have to fall place in the next three months,” Young said. “It’s the completion date that, I think, is of most concern, that (Steiner + Associates) can get it done in late summer, early fall of 2015.”

Reporter Chelsey Levingston contributed to this story.

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