If all of the school districts and governmental agencies accepted Butler County Auditor Nancy Nix’s proposal and declined tax windfalls from a 37% property value hike, it would mean a $39 million taxpayer savings.
The state-mandated median property value hike is 37% for next year, and while state lawmakers tried to pass “band-aid” legislation to lessen the blow, it didn’t work. Nix had another idea — asking taxing bodies to forego the windfall higher values will produce.
Real Estate Director Mike Stein calculated what giving the tax break would mean for the governments and schools that use tax dollars to provide services and sent the information to officials so they can mull the idea. The largest potential savings to taxpayers would be $10.6 million for the Lakota Schools and $5.7 million for the countywide levies.
The countywide figure is for the commissioners’ general fund, Children Services, Developmental Disabilities, the mental health board and senior levy. Nix estimated if the county commissioners did not collect the general fund increase, there would be a savings of roughly $40 per home, “but it is very dependent on the value of the home.”
Nix is meeting with county commissioners on Monday to discuss leaving their portion of the windfall on the table for next year. They gave everyone a tax holiday last year, rolling back their inside millage, to the tune of $18.5 million, that saved about $67 per $100,000 in assessed value.
Commissioner Cindy Carpenter told the Journal-News she intends to meet with their finance director before the meeting to get a handle on the impact of the tax break.
“It’s a lot of moving parts, when you start taking money from critical services,” she said. “I want to talk to somebody who has that finance and budgeting mindset and is able to look at the long term ramifications and give me advise. I don’t want to just make a political move.”
Commissioner T.C. Rogers said he needs to weigh the relatively small impact on individual tax bills versus what the county can do with millions.
“It just has many implications positive and negative,” Rogers said. “Just like other decisions which are made, I want to know what is the best net decision for county residents.”
The values are increasing as part of the triennial review of property sales. The highest median property value increase is in Monroe at 41% and the lowest is 25% in the little sliver of Sharonville that resides within the county. Fairfield and Middletown will have a median increase of 40% and in a dozen of the tax districts the hikes are 35% or more. Stein said property tax bills in Middletown will increase 27% to 30%.
Nix started “sounding the alarm” in March when early predictions had the value increase at around 24%, it has only gotten worse. Commissioner Don Dixon rallied state legislators and local leaders to attack the problem after pleas to the state tax commissioner basically fell on deaf ears. By May the average increase jumped to 42%.
During a “summit” with those leaders, county Prosecutor Mike Gmoser suggested passing legislation that would mandate a three-year average — the tax commissioner relied heavily on pandemic-skewed high housing prices from 2022 — that temporary fix would have dropped the increase to 25%.
State Sen. George Lang tried unsuccessfully to insert that provision in the state budget. State Rep. Thomas Hall introduced the proposition in a stand-alone bill and it has had a couple hearings in the Ways & Means Committee.
Hall told the Journal-News no one knows when the House is going back in session — many believe it won’t be until after the November election — so the bill likely couldn’t be passed in time. If it is passed, county auditors would have to all redo the numbers many have already finalized.
Hall said he doesn’t think there is enough time to get this temporary “fix” passed into the law. He said Nix’s suggestion is the best option for the moment.
“I think as we continue to work on long term solutions for property tax relief I think this is the most commonsense thing we can do in the short term to take the burden off property owners,” Hall said. “I know we have a lot of other stuff we have to fix, and we hope to get this passed but the timing is just looking really dark at this point.”
Nix said from the questions the various school treasurers and government finance officials have been asking her office, they are all considering giving taxpayers a break.
“No one’s dismissing it, but it’s very preliminary, only they know their financial situation and we can’t force them to do anything,” she said agreeing this is likely the only relief option for this year. “Albeit it a small one, it’s just something. It’s a good faith effort, it’s the only thing in our toolbox at the auditor’s office.”