Will Hamilton County sales tax go up to fill budget hole?

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Hamilton County faces a projected $28 million budget deficit due to state cuts, lower sales tax revenue, and investment income, the county administrator said Monday.

"Well, there's no doubt that 2019 is going to be a much different year then we've seen since the height of the recession in terms of revenue reductions. We knew that again going into this year. We're being very proactive about it," said Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune.

This is not a temporary problem, a county administrator report shows: The gap widens over the next five years.

The county has been operating in the red the last two years, and now the gap could impact services to the court system, efforts to attract and retain business, and 911 emergency communications services.

"What's causing the deficit is what's going on with state and federal government," Portune said.

Funding made available to the county, reimbursements that were traditionally received, and allowed revenue has been reduced significantly on a state and federal level, he said.

"Not to mention," Portune added, "the fact that we collect a lot of money that goes to Columbus but never comes back. We're the number one donor county -- not by choice but by edict from Columbus."

County Administrator Jeff Aluotto laid out some solutions that would fix the shortfall and suggested one in particular: A quarter-cent sales tax increase starting in April 2019.

"So, it would be a temporary quarter-cent increase," Alutto said. "A new quarter-cent, which would fall off and you would go back to the level that we're at now when the Union Terminal tax falls off in 2020."

Public hearings on the budget are scheduled next month.

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