State changes property tax rollback policy

(FOX19) - Property tax bills could soon be on the rise in Ohio.

Since 1971, the state has been funding a percentage of property taxes, but those reductions will soon be changing. Contained within the latest state budget was wording that ended the state's four decade "rollbacks" for new levies. The rollbacks include a 10% and 2.5% rollback and a homestead exemption.

Renewal levies will not be impacted.

"It's going to be harder and harder for the local communities that are trying to pick up the funds that provide the support the state has cut," Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes told FOX19. "It just seems that the state has got this idea that they're going to put more of a burden on property tax payers and not support local governments to the degree that they always did," he argued.

In our commitment to balanced news, FOX19 contacted Governor John Kasich's office which released the following statement:

It makes our tax system more fair and helped us cut taxes for all Ohioans by $2.7 billion.  All taxpayers-even renters-help pay for tax relief for property owners in a flawed policy dating back to the early 1970s. The so-called "tax relief" is a myth, however, since the state simply raises taxes on all Ohioans-including Ohioans who don't own property-to cover these costs. The budget eliminates this shell game on new levies and instead reverts to a more transparent system in which property owners pay their entire property tax bill themselves but also enjoy lower income tax rates. Existing levies are unchanged.

Just last year state rollbacks amounted to $1.7 billion in property tax reductions.

In Hamilton County the total came to $130 million, nearly $50 million in Butler County, and $40 million in Warren County.

Current levies will be grandfathered in, but the state will no longer kick in additional and replacement levies or any increases to levies being renewed.

The Public Libraries of Cincinnati and Hamilton County's levy on the ballot in November will not be affected.

As the government relations chair for the Ohio Library Council, however, Library Director Kim Fender recognizes other organizations could have a more difficult time getting tax payer support.

"I think for an organization that was asking for new money that it may very well create a new challenge," she recognized. "Especially if you're looking for a sizable amount of money."

Fender says educating the public on the confusing changes will not be easy.

"When they get their tax bills and they see those numbers go up certainly there will be questions to answer," she said. "We have to really communicate when we ask for those levy dollars, the value of the organization you're supporting with those funds and show how they're going to be used in a fiscally responsible way."

Fender points out that either way, tax payers are ultimately picking up the tab.

"Before they were paid by the state out of all of the tax dollars we jointly pay to the state," she explained. "Now they'll show up on your local tax bill."

"It's kind of an incremental thing that's going to hit them little by little," Rhodes said. "It's going to cost everybody more money."

County auditors do receive a portion of the reimbursements for administration costs.

FOX19 reached out to area state legislators, but did not get a response back.

According to Auditor Rhodes, these changes will not affect the August special election coming up next week. He says increased taxes for new levies voted in come November will begin to show up on property tax bills next year.

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