Sunday, August 01, 1999

Activist wants council members to pledge property tax cut

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        An anti-tax group has issued a challenge to Cincinnati City Council members and candidates, asking them to pledge to a property tax cut.

        The issue is significant for city property owners facing tax increases in January as a result of this year's re-evaluation.

        The idea failed 5-4 in a council vote in June, but tax foe Tom Brinkman Jr. is hoping the pressure of November's council campaign will change some votes. He is a spokesman for COAST (Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes), which issued the challenge Friday.

        One councilman who voted with the majority, Jim Tarbell, said he may take the pledge. “I'd like to see it,” he said. “This is a good time for this discussion to come up.”

        The city is anticipating an $18 million surplus this year. Mr. Tarbell said some additional things need funding — parks, street repairs and neighborhood business districts — but that doesn't necessarily mean higher spending. The issue will likely come up in October when the city votes on its tax budget.

        In 1999, the city's portion of property taxes is expected to raise $28 million. If property values increase by 7 percent, it would bring in $30.2 million in 2000.

        A proposal by Councilman Phil Heimlich would eliminate the effect of the 7 percent increase. A competing proposal by Mayor Roxanne Qualls would limit the tax reduction to owner-occupied homes.

        Council members Charles Winburn, Jeanette Cissell and Todd Portune voted with Mr. Heimlich last month.

        Mr. Portune said Friday that council could pass both proposals. “I don't think it's a fair comparison to pit one against the other,” he said.

        Council candidates Charlie Luken and Pat DeWine said they will sign COAST's pledge; Forrest Buckley said he would not. The Heimlich proposal would reduce taxes on a $90,000 home by just $14, Mr. Buckley said, while the mayor's proposal has the potential to save the same owner about $124 a year.

        Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes said the Qualls proposal may not be permitted by law, and it would be a “nightmare” to administer.


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