Land Bank Board: Delinquent tax percentage adequate

The Butler County land bank board has decided not to ask for a bigger slice of the delinquent tax pie, at least not for the foreseeable future.

Land Bank Executive Director Mike McNamara recommended the blight-busting agency hold to the 1 percent allotment of delinquent tax assessment collections funds, called DTAC funds, and his board concurred. DTAC funds are late payment penalties on real estate taxes.

In October the land bank board was considering whether to ask the commissioners for a higher percentage of DTAC funds, in part because delinquent properties are shrinking post-recession.

McNamara and county Treasurer Nancy Nix, who chairs the land bank board, surveyed other large counties and found 11 of 12 receive 5 percent of their DTAC funding.

“I recommend we stay at the one percent for another three years…,” McNamara said. “We are functioning well at one percent, we are able to address blight at a reasonable pace. We are able to achieve a number of grants and funding devices that are available to us. Without a specific need for an increase or a specific request for an increase or a program from the state telling us that we need to have a greater funding stream, I believe one percent is adequate.”

DTAC brought in a total $14.3 million and $131,701 to the land bank last year. An increase to five percent would yield $658,000. Whatever is siphoned off for the land bank takes away from other taxing bodies like schools, but Nix said Lakota, the county’s largest school district, was only out $27,000 from the one percent deduction. An amount she says was a drop in the bucket compared to their entire budget.

The land bank was formed in 2012 and two years ago Butler County commissioners agreed to siphon one percent of DTAC funds to bolster the land bank, help raise the required matching funds and open up services for the entire county. For the first two years only the cities of Hamilton and Middletown benefited from state and federal programs designed to beat back blight.

The main thrust of the program is to tear down foreclosed and abandoned buildings that are not only eyesores but can be magnets for mischief. Middletown City Manager Doug Adkins asked the board on Monday if they can revisit the DTAC issue sooner than three years because they are in the middle of a housing stock assessment and the city’s needs might change.

“We are in the process of completely reevaluating our housing stock and my guess is we’re going to to be doing a lot of demolition over the next five to 10 years still,” Adkins said. “Not because they are necessarily in foreclosure but because they are worn out houses that have done their time and it’s time to get them out of our housing stock and get more competitive housing in place.”

He said he wanted to make sure he could come back to the land bank board for money for these efforts, if need be.

“My thought would be one percent for 2017 is certainly, from Middletown’s perceptive, adequate but I would like to know I could come back in 2018 with a proposal, if there was a reason to go higher,” Adkins said.

The board agreed the DTAC discussion will remain fluid but for now the one percent is all that is needed.

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