Thursday, March 26, 2009

Little Known Fact: Hamilton County Taxes Lower Than Our Peers

Sometimes politics can get in the way of some basic facts. And sometimes politicians don't even look at the facts before they start arguing.

As we try to compete for jobs and businesses in Hamilton County, one fact that always gets bandied about is our rate of taxes. Is it high? Is it low? Especially around property taxes, this has been a highly contested question.

Well, a recent Forbes survey studied property taxes (as a percentage of income) across the state and country, and the results might surprise you.

Of Ohio's six largest urban counties (400,000 people and up), Hamilton County had the lowest property tax, as a percentage of income, in the state. We were 26% lower than Cuyahoga County, 16% lower than Franklin County and 8.5% lower than Summit County.

Of Ohio's 10 largest counties (250,000 and up), we were tied for the third lowest property tax.

Again, these are the results of Forbes research, and a nonpartisan group called the Tax Foundation--not me or Hamilton County.

In addition to this, few people realize that our sales tax is also relatively low.

Of the top 6 urban Ohio counties, we are tied for the lowest sales tax with Summit County. We are 16.5% lower than Cuyahoga County, 7% less than Montgomery County and 4% less than Franklin County. (And don't forget, .5% of our sales tax goes for stadiums, etc., while most of these other Counties' taxes go directly to their governments).

This data does not suggest we should not be tax sensitive. We definitely should be, especially at this challenging economic time for families and businesses.

But what we should also do is realize that, as we compete for jobs and businesses to come our way, we actually have a pretty competitive tax burden when we compare ourselves to the other major counties in Ohio.

UPDATE: Here's a great example of the misinformation that this study rebuts. Americans for Prosperity recently wrote that "Hamilton County . . . has the 2nd highest county property taxes in Ohio." I believe they got that from local sources--looks from this website that then-Commissioner DeWine wrote the same in an editorial. Problem is, it's totally false.


Anonymous said...

I would support raising taxes if they were used wisely and resulted in better performance by county government and enhanced services for HamCo residents.

Anonymous said...

That's great David, except we're not in as much of a direct competition with the urban Ohio counties as we are with our surrounding neighbor Counties.

Butler, Clermont, Warren, Dearborn, Campbell, Boone, and Kenton Counties ALL have lower property and sales tax rates.

David Pepper said...

Anon#2 makes part of my point for me. People keep spreading bad facts.

We have the same sales tax rate as Warren and Clermont (6.5%). Butler is at 6.25%.

And based on real dollars paid on property taxes, we are actually lower than two of the other three Ohio counties (Warren and Butler). We are slightly worse than them when measured by percentage of income. But according to the Forbes study, at least, if you moved to Warren or Butler today, you'd pay MORE in property tax.

Comparing state to state gets more complicated, since the entire mix of state and local taxes is different. And I know for sure that Indiana's making so much out of casinos helps them keep their local taxes down.

By the way, since our current tax level has been determined by decades of decisions made by my predecessors (who happened to be in another party), I'm not really attacking or defending the current rates. Just trying to get the facts out.

Finally, I have sat through many meetings where people, including elected officials, have claimed Hamilton County has the highest property taxes in the state. Or second highest.

Part of the point here is simply to get the fact out that according to a neutral study, those claims are clearly off base. We have work to do to keep taxes low and deliver better service--but we don't help ourselves when we continuously spread inaccurate and harmful facts about our own competitiveness.

Anonymous said...

Indiana and Kentucky pay a personal property tax on their automobiles also. How can we charge them for using our Libraries, Parks and Zoo.

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