Thursday, August 12, 2004

Cheviot citizens to decide on property tax increase



By Kevin Aldridge
Enquirer staff writer

CHEVIOT - City Council wants to place on the Nov. 2 ballot an operating levy that would raise property taxes by about $95 a year on a $100,000 house.

City Auditor Daniel Murphy said the money would go toward Cheviot's dwindling general fund, which could face a deficit by the start of 2005.

The general fund, which runs at roughly $4 million annually, has been hit hard by the loss of nearly $200,000 in inheritance taxes, he said.

Revenues have remained flat, while expenses - mainly for salaries and benefits - have continued to increase each year, Murphy said. He estimated the levy would generate an additional $400,000 a year.

"We thought (the 4.25-mill levy) would be a good number that would allow us to plan for many years, at least," Murphy said. "We'd end up a couple hundred thousand dollars in the hole in a few years if things stayed the same."

The general fund currently operates from two existing levies, which Murphy said are no longer sufficient to cover costs of police, fire and other city services.

"Government isn't like a Kroger store. You can't raise the price of beans to cover the cost of operations," said Steve Neal, Cheviot's safety service director. "You've got to go to the people. We're hoping that they can understand that we wouldn't be coming to them if we didn't need the money."

Neal said there is some concern among city officials about competition from other countywide levies that also will appear on the November ballot. But Neal said he was confident that a majority of Cheviot's 9,000 residents would show their support.

"We are all competing for the buck," Neal said. "I'm just hoping that people say, 'If I'm getting taxed to death, then let the tax dollars come to where I live.' "

The deadline for placing a levy on the ballot is Aug. 19.

E-mail kaldridge@enquirer.com




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