A budget proposal by Hamilton County Administrator Christian Sigman unveiled Oct. 13 calls for a .25 percent increase in sales taxes and a decrease in property taxes for the county. The decrease would amount to $38 for every $100,000 worth of property, meaning homeowners would generally see a wash or net savings on the deal while low-income and middle class residents pay more in taxes.
Sigman says the budget represents a big change in the way the county funds itself. The benefit of relying more on sales tax, he says, is that it raises much more money from those who live outside the county but buy things here. The budget proposal would provide $210 million in 2015. That’s short of the $222 million needed by county departments, but a big jump from the $200 million available under the current budget. Democratic County Commissioner Todd Portune said the proposal was “bound to be controversial,” since sales taxes place a higher burden on the poor.
Lower income residents generally spend more of their money on necessities, including those subject to sales tax, meaning they end up paying a larger portion of their income in sales taxes. The bottom fifth of workers in Ohio, those making less than $17,000 a year, pay 7 percent of their income in sales taxes under the state’s current tax structure. Meanwhile, top earners, those making more than $138,000, pay as little as 1 percent in sales tax.
The sales tax increase was first proposed last summer as part of a plan to renovate Music Hall and Union Terminal. Republican County Commissioners Greg Hartmann and Chris Monzel voted to strip Music Hall out of that plan, but the tax hike will be on the November ballot for Union Terminal. That hike could also be used to provide for a number of other county needs, including a proposed move for the county Board of Elections office from downtown to Mount Airy. Commissioners have not said whether they support the budget proposal.