Tuesday, October 26, 2004
Terrace Park seeks rare tax increases
Taxes haven't gone up in 12 years
By Steve Kemme
Enquirer staff writer
TERRACE PARK - Escalating operating costs and declining revenue have caused Terrace Park to place two proposed tax increases on the Nov. 2 ballot.
If voters approve both increases, the annual taxes on a $250,000 house in Terrace Park would jump by $370 a year.
A 3.5-mill, five-year operating levy would generate $332,000 a year and would raise the taxes for a $250,000 house by $259 a year.
A $2.1 million bond issue would be used to repair the community building, to build a new emergency services building and to buy a new fire truck. The owner of a $250,000 house would pay $111 a year more in taxes.
Failure of the operating levy would force the village, which is part of the Mariemont School District, to slash some services, village officials said.
"At some point we would have to take a serious look at curtailing our services, up to and including brush removal, the amount we invest in streets and sidewalks, and the way our police department is configured," said Councilman Mark Porst, chairman of council's finance committee.
Terrace Park, a community of 2,300 residents where more than half of the houses exceed $300,000 in value, has a small business tax base and hasn't raised taxes in 12 years.
Its estate tax revenue has declined from $437,000 in 2001 to $101,000 last year, when the village had to tap its surplus fund to cover a $285,000 budget deficit. A recent unexpected windfall of $460,000 in estate tax revenue will wipe out a projected $250,000 deficit at the end of this year.
But village officials say despite the windfall, the 3.5-mill oper-ating levy is badly needed. The windfall was a onetime event, and changes in Ohio tax laws and Terrace Park demographics make it likely that the trend of declining estate tax revenue will continue, Porst said. The village projects next year's estate tax revenue at $50,000.
There is no organized opposition to these two tax issues.
But village officials are taking nothing for granted. They scheduled six public forums to answer residents' questions about the levy and bond issue and included information about them in the last four village newsletters.
"We're hopeful that the residents will respect the fact that we haven't asked for an increase in 12 years," Porst said. "When you look at comparable size communities, the village is pretty economical in what we do."
The revenue from these two tax increases, he said, will leave the village in good financial shape for the next six years.
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