Butler County taxpayers to see hikes as rollbacks end, property values increase

Board of Development Disabilities ends rollback as spending increases.

Butler County taxpayers will experience a perfect storm of tax hikes next year with two countywide tax breaks likely ending, a mandated 20% property value increase for many and several tax levy requests on the November ballot.

During budget hearings with the county commissioners this week Lisa Guliano, superintendent of the Board of Developmental Disabilities, said they will be ending a roll back of $3.6 million of their tax collections after two years of the break. The rollback has amounted on average to $17.50 per $100,000 of property value annually.

With cash reserves at 149% of its annual budget, the DD board decided to give the tax cut in 2020 and extended it last year, after receiving a federal pandemic cash infusion and decreased service expenditures because of COVID-19. She told the Journal-News a number of things factored into the decision to end the tax break.

“We really did see our cash reserves come down through the process of giving back to the taxpayers over the last two years,” Guliano said. “We were at a point with our expenses returning to normal and also just the fact the pandemic relief dollars, those are ceasing, all of that came together where our cash reserves are projected to be more normal moving forward and we actually are spending more and starting to utilize more of those reserves.”

The board doesn’t provide direct services to its 3,800 clients, instead contracting out the support. The expense budget for next year is projected at $32.5 million with revenues totaling $27.3 million and a carryover just shy of $32.8 million. The carryover going into 2021 was $39.3 million.

The county commissioners haven’t officially discussed it yet, but it seems likely they will also end the $18.5 million tax rollback they instituted this year, a break that amounted to about $67 per $100,000 in valuation. County Administrator Judi Boyko told the Journal-News unless the commissioners advise her otherwise, she did not include the tax break in the estimated $118 million revenue equation, because of current uncertain economic conditions.

“I believe it is wise for the commissioners to monitor next year’s operational expenses and perhaps pause and evaluate cash flow for next year,” Boyko said adding their primary revenues source, sales tax is contingent on the health of the economy.

No one knows whether the economy is going to tank next year so they are taking a very conservative approach to the 2023 budget— hiring freezes are possible — and all three commissioners told the Journal-News it is premature to discuss extending the tax break.

ExploreIn planning annual budget, Butler County leaders warn of potential hiring freeze

Taxpayers countywide will see the increase from the DD Board’s and likely the commissioners’ cancelled rollbacks next year.

West Chester Twp. is the largest jurisdiction in the county and Finance Director Ken Keim told the Journal-News taxpayers there will collectively pay around $4.7 million more next year if the commissioners collect their full millage again and “I had no expectation that they were going to do that for more than one year, in casual conversations with a couple of them they let it be known there should be no expectation for that to happen more than one year.”

Some residents in four specific jurisdictions will also see additional hikes now that County Auditor Roger Reynolds lost his appeal to the state Board of Tax Appeals.

Reynolds waged a two-year war with Ohio Tax Commissioner Jeffrey McClain over mandated 2020 property value increases. When Reynolds submitted his reappraisal numbers, he proposed an aggregate 13% property value increase, McClain rejected the numbers for Fairfield, Hamilton, Monroe, Trenton and Fairfield, Liberty and West Chester townships.

He sent revised numbers with an aggregate 14.5% increase after he reexamined some areas where the tax commissioner thought his numbers were “soft,” and those numbers were denied. The appeal ensued.

As result of the appellate decision residential and agricultural property values will increase as follows: Fairfield from 17.2% to 20%; Fairfield Twp. from 16.7% to 23%; Hamilton from 15.6% to 20% and West Chester Twp. from 13.5% to 20%. Reynolds’ revised value hikes — which make up more than 50% of the county’s residential tax base — have been in place pending the appeal.

Reynolds told the Journal-News until he hears back from the tax commissioner’s office he won’t know the true impact of the appeal loss but he expects it to be “minimal” countywide, except in jurisdictions asking their taxpayers to approve new levies in November. They are also still working out details but taxpayers in the disputed areas will likely see retroactive billing on their first half tax bill next year reflecting the higher rates from 2020 and 2021.

“With DD putting their tax collection back on, with the commissioners (likely) putting their tax collection back on and with the updates to the four entities that were impacted by the tax commissioners demand that we have 20% average value increases, there will be an increase to tax bills as a result of that,” Reynolds said. “Plus whatever the voters decide this fall.”

Property value increases do not automatically trigger higher taxes for everyone, some values may have decreased as a result of the reappraisal. If a jurisdiction alters an existing levy or asks voters to approve a new levy, like West Chester Twp. did in 2020 with new fire and police levies, the value hike will have an impact on tax bills.

Keim said their police and fire levies won’t produce more than the voters approved, but inside millage that fuels the general fund and revenues for roads and bridges would increase if the state prevailed.

Because the state won, they will collect an extra $367,000 combined for the 2021 and 2022 calendar years for those two funds. The total property taxes for those funds totaled $3.7 million in 2021.

There are 15 tax levy questions on the Nov. 8 ballot and if approved by voters seven of them will increase taxes, the rest are renewals like the Butler County Children Services request which won’t hike taxes. Ross and Talawanda schools are seeking additional levies, the villages of College Corner, Millville, New Miami and Seven Mile and Hanover, Madison, Milford, Morgan and Reily townships are asking for new money for services like fire and police.

Reynolds said his office doesn’t generally like to provide tax hike information based on $100,000 value, since no homes cost that little anymore. If Talawanda voters approve the additional 5.7 mills the owner of a $196,420 home — the average price — will pay $391.85 more each year just for the levy.

His website has a tool homeowners can use to tell how much the new levies will impact their taxes. Residents can go to: https://propertysearch.butlercountyauditor.org/search/commonsearch.aspx?mode=owner

Then type in their name or address and use the “levy calculator” button at the top left to find the tax estimate.

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