Butler County revenues up nearly 10% despite pandemic: How that’s happening

Butler County property taxes are due today, and county Treasurer Nancy Nix said revenues from those taxes are up 8% while sales tax revenues for this month also soared.

Nix said as of Tuesday countywide her office has received $242.8 million in property taxes against $225.5 million for the same time period last year, which is a $17.2 million increase. The total allocation to the county government last year was about $14.5 million, and it could collect about $1.2 million more from that revenue source if collection stay steady.

Sales tax revenues have remained healthy throughout the pandemic and have increased 4.9% in the first two months, for a total collection of about $8 million. The amount received this month is $4.76 million, which is the highest monthly collection in the timeframe listed on the Ohio taxation website, which goes back to 2007.

Miami University Economics Professor Bill Even said this trend isn’t exclusive to Butler County.

“If you look at retail sales in the country as a whole they took a huge dip back in April, from February to April they went from $530 billion down to $400 billion so they fell almost 20%,” Even said. “And then they quickly recovered and actually retail sales nationally are currently above what they were prior to the pandemic kicking in.”

The county property tax jump is due to the state-mandated 2020 property reassessment. All 165,000 Butler County parcels were reassessed last year. The average value increase is 14.5%, but increases vary 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.

ExploreButler County residents flood officials with calls after getting higher tax bills

Nix said while taxes were due today, homeowners can still appeal the value increase — not their taxes — to the county Board of Revision if they believe it is wrong. Nix said appeals must be received in Reynolds’ office no later than March 31. She said state law controls the filing deadline for the value appeal process.

Nix’ and Reynolds’ offices were inundated with calls after the tax bills went out last month. Nix said calls in the first week after bills went out were up 237% or 1,580 calls in the first three days this year, compared to 669 last year. They are still getting an average 223 daily.

Chief Deputy Auditor Dawn Mills said her office is still getting on average 115 calls per day. It has received 368 Board of Revision applications. The last time properties were reassessed in 2017, the office received 365 applications by mid-March and 346 more by the deadline.

The county is slated to receive another huge infusion of cash. Preliminary estimates say the commissioners could receive as much as $75 million from the new $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.

“We’re going to have to sort through this economically, it’s got different phases nobody’s ever seen before and jury is out on how it’s going to end,” said Commissioner Don Dixon said. “We’ve been preparing for an economy that was slowing down, so our main goal is sustainability. We’ve done that and will continue to do that.

“This (federal relief funds) windfall is something that is going to take a lot of thought, to get it in the right place and not just be spending it to be spending it.”

The commissioners projected a general fund loss of about $20 million near the beginning of the pandemic. It didn’t come to fruition.

For the first two months of the year, boarding of prisoners revenue — one of the largest revenue generators at around $10 million per year — is up nearly 20% from last year with $2.8 million collected. Property transfer taxes, budgeted at almost $4 million for the year, saw a 36% increase year-over-year at $1.18 million.

Investment income showed the largest loss, dropping 58.6% from $814,038 to $336,952.

“Due to the federal government’s massive borrowing and deficits not seen since WWII, I don’t foresee interest rates rising any time soon,” Nix said. “When I took office in 2007, our interest income was $11 million, and dropped to $1 million in 2013, then $7 million in 2019. Interest revenue definitely impacts the county’s budget.”

General Fund expenses were down 2.4% from $14.4 million in February 2020 to $14 million this year.

Property value disputes

Residents can dispute their property values with the Board of Revision, applications can be found at: www.butlercountyauditor.org/Home/Forms.