Butler County property tax collections called ‘highest ever,’ pass $560 million

Butler County collected the most property taxes ever this year in part due to the county auditor's mandatory reappraisal in 2020. GREG LYNCH / STAFF
Butler County collected the most property taxes ever this year in part due to the county auditor's mandatory reappraisal in 2020. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

Butler County collected more than $560 million in property taxes this year, an 8% increase due in part to a mandatory 2020 reassessment.

The second installments of property taxes were due in early August, and Butler County Treasurer Nancy Nix told the Journal-News the county collected $564 million — including $12.3 million in delinquent amounts — which is $42.3 million more than last year. This was “highest real estate tax collection ever,” she said.

The county property tax jump is due in part to the state-mandated 2020 property reassessment. All 165,000 Butler County parcels were reassessed last year and increases varied by neighborhood according to recent sales data. The state ordered an average 20% increase, and County Auditor Roger Reynolds is battling that amount on appeal.

The average increase in county property values was 14.5% with the highest increase in Lemon Twp. at 32%, and the lowest was 10.1% in Morgan Twp. He received 773 applications to challenge property values to the Board of Revision, including Liberty Center owners asking to drop the value $31 million. The decision on the Liberty Center request is still pending.

Nix sits on the BOR and she doesn’t believe tax collections will be impacted much.

“BOR wasn’t materially impactful this year. We heard more cases this year than in the past couple of years due to the reappraisal, but in the cases I attended, we usually kept the auditor value,” Nix said. “The auditor value is already an average of 8% lower than market values, so most taxpayers contesting didn’t have enough evidence to justify a decrease, according to the board.”

Nix said she might have to rebill the four taxing districts Reynolds is challenging with the state, depending on the outcome of the hearing with state board of tax appeals.

Reynolds is appealing the values for Fairfield, Hamilton and Fairfield and West Chester townships, the tax commissioner didn’t quibble with his values for the remainder of the county.

“They agreed to those and we used the same calculations, formulas across the whole county,” Reynolds said. “It’s just the way the state did their calculations, we could come to an agreement on those (jurisdictions) they wanted those areas to go up more.”

Reynolds said the hearing with the state board of tax appeals has been delayed to Oct. 13, it was originally set for this month.

The total property tax distribution for county government is not yet available, but the first half collection was $8.8 million as of the end of July, which is $1.3 million more than a year ago. Other collections pertaining to real estate are also continuing to increase. Property transfer taxes are up to $4.5 million, a $1.3 million year-to-date hike and recorder’s fees are up $373,769 for a total of $1.3 million.

All general fund revenues combined totaled $73.5 million so far this year, which is $10.6 million over the same time last year. The largest contributor is sales tax which is up 18.4% or $4.6 million. The sales tax income for August was $4.6 million. There is $89 million unencumbered cash in reserves.

As a CPA, Reynolds said the economy, especially in the real estate realm, is the best he has seen since he took office in 2008, and the county coffers are reaping the benefits.

“It’s the strongest that I’ve seen since I’ve been in office,” Reynolds said. “The only concern of a strong economy is you don’t get used to it because there’s always going to be ups and downs. I think the county is always going to continue to position ourselves so that we can continue good services when the economy does soften.”

Next month the commissioners will hold budget hearings with other office holders, department heads and independent boards to craft the 2022 spending plan. They passed a $106.7 million general fund tax budget in July which is well below projected revenues of $113.3 million. The county expects to begin the year with $112.8 million in carryover.

The commissioners asked everyone to hold expenses to 2019 actual spending, but County Administrator Judi Boyko said few strictly followed that directive. General fund expenses in 2019 totaled $100.4 million.

“The commissioners are committed to structurally balanced budgets,” Boyko told the Journal-News about the upcoming hearings. “Not just in this calendar year but subsequent years to come, being mindful when revenue sources are stable does not preclude us from being fiscally responsible in preparation for potential downturns.”