Setback to Local Effort to Reduce Value Increases

Last-minute changes to the state budget today eliminated language that would have protected Butler County home owners.

The Senate version of the bill included an amendment from State Sen. George Lang (R-West Chester Township) that would compel the state tax commissioner to use an average of three years of sales in determining property values during a triennial update or reappraisal. By concentrating more on 2022 sales, the department of taxation recommended a 42 percent average increase in Butler County. Using a three-year average would result in an approximate 25 percent average value increase. But that language was taken out.

“I’m very disappointed in today’s turn of events,” Nix said. “I appreciate the effort made by Sen. Lang to help taxpayers and what Rep. Thomas Hall has done by introducing House Bill 187 (which mirrored Lang’s amendment). The sting of this will be felt next February when tax bills come due.”

Rep. Hall released this statement: “I was disappointed to learn that in the last hours of the conference committee on the state budget, the decision was made to cut our HB 187 language that the Senate had added. This deletion is going to be very detrimental to not only Butler County, but all counties up for property revaluations during this cycle. Our work is not over on this issue; it has just begun. I look forward to continuing this discussion and reform efforts when we return.”

Nix says she will now focus on working with the tax commissioner to lower the recommended average increase and explore every avenue, including the County Budget Commission, to reduce the tax implications on residents.

While HB 920 generally protects property owners from tax increases caused by inflationary increases in property values, that’s not the case in most of Butler County because 8 of 10 school districts are at what is called the 20-mill floor. Only Lakota and Fairfield are not.

While tax rates can be adjusted downward in those two school districts to lessen tax increases, homeowners in the other eight districts will receive a tax increase on the school portion of their tax bill in direct correlation to their property value increase following the state-mandated triennial update. “Every part of the equation should be scrutinized, not just values,” Nix said. “This is truly a taxation problem and an inflation problem.”

She cited data from Cincinnati MLS and the St. Louis Federal Reserve that show the median sale price in Butler County has increased 119 percent since 2012 ($130,000 to $285,000) while the median household income in the county has only increased 29 percent ($56,000 to $72,000).

“The inflationary pressures on people are real,” said Nix. “Local taxes are becoming a burden. We lost this round in the Legislature but we’re not done with our efforts to bring change. We’ll be holding public forums to educate not only the public but our legislators on why property tax reform is needed and the reason HB 920 is no longer protecting residents from inflationary tax increases.”

Nix began sounding the alarm in March that the state-mandated 2023 triennial update would result in unprecedented property value increases. Many local leaders took notice, especially Butler County Commissioner Don Dixon. Following a work session with the commissioners, other county elected officials and local legislators, action followed.

However, local actions received a setback on Friday in Columbus during negotiations held by the legislative conference committee. This committee of state legislators is tasked with resolving differences in the budget bill as approved separately by the House and the Senate. These negotiations resulted in
Lang’s amendment being eliminated.