By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes said Friday the county's declining population could be related to rising residential property taxes, which are the highest among Ohio's largest counties.
In his annual Citizens Financial Report, Rhodes said that since 1993, tax revenue has increased by almost 67 percent, while population declined by almost 40,000 residents.
Rhodes said "a decade of flawed decision-making" has created tax rates that put the county at a competitive disadvantage with homebuyers.
"The tax bill has gotten to the point where people say, 'I don't want to live here anymore,'" Rhodes said. "There is too much that is too attractive and not nearly as expensive that is close by."
In 1993, the county collected $87,757,124 in residential property taxes. Last year, the county collected $146,196,314 - a 66.6 percent increase.
According to the report, Hamilton County residents were billed $175.35 per person for residential property taxes in 2002, while people in Franklin and Cuyahoga counties were billed $154.25 and $157.33, respectively. The rates were much less nearby: Butler ($79.11), Clermont ($80.94) and Warren ($29.89).
Rhodes said elected officials spend thousands of dollars on studies and consultants to find out why Hamilton County is losing population, but the discussion never turns to property taxes.
He did not suggest specific budget cuts.
Rhodes was also critical of recent tax incentive deals aimed at keeping major business interests in the area.
"If I'm not paying (my taxes), you're going to have to pay more to make up for it," Rhodes said. "You can't keep doing this because the burden grows on the individual.
"If we keep on doing it, pretty soon there will be one little old fellow in Price Hill who's paying all the taxes because everyone else will have been abated," he said.
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