Hamilton County Commissioners vote to keep sales tax increase

Hamilton County Commissioners vote to keep sales tax increase
Commissioner Denis Driehaus (Source: Image courtesy of Cara Owsley from The Enquirer)

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to keep its sales tax rate at 7 percent, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports.

The board could have allowed a 0.25 percent portion of the sales tax expire in April, dropping the county’s sales tax to 6.75 percent. Instead it voted to extend the tax increase, approved five years ago to pay for renovations at Union Terminal.

Now those renovations are complete, and the county has decided to use the money to fund basic services like courts, the Sheriff, the crime lab and the 911 center.

County leaders estimate the .25 percent sales tax will generat $20 million in the final eight months of 2020 and $40 million per year after that.

Commissioner Denise Driehaus explained her vote in a statement released Tuesday morning, noting state cuts to local governments over the last decade track closely with county deficits during that time.

“Not only has the state cut Hamilton County, but it has also cut all of the cities, villages, and townships within our boundaries,” Driehaus wrote. “These cuts have put a severe strain on the ability of local governments to provide even a basic level of service.”

The county’s new budget allows it to decrease the 911 fee paid by local governments, according to Driehaus, leading to significant cost savings.

It also allows the county to repeal a 1 mill property transfer tax increase approved last year.

At 7 percent, Hamilton County’s sales tax rate is lower than Franklin County and Cuyahoga County, standing at 7.5 percent and 8 percent respectively.

That could change next year, though, as Metro considers asking voters for a .8 percent sales tax increase to fund substantial improvements to the region’s transit system.

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