Rhodes: Levy attempt to 'hoodwink' voters

By Kimball Perry, Post staff reporter

Charging that taxpayers are being ''hoodwinked,'' Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes says county commissioners' representations that a Children Services levy they plan to approve today for the November ballot isn't an increase is outrageous.

The request, he contended, is actually a 48 percent property tax increase.

What the levy cost homeowners
In 1996, Hamilton County voters approved a five-year, 2.77-mill Childrens Services Levy that generated $195 million.

Here's what it cost the owner of a $100,000 house for each of the five years:

1997 - $75.17

1998 - $74.92

1999 - $56.97, because commissioners didn't take, or ''rebated,''' $10 million of the levy.

2000 - $64.04

2001 - $43.37, because commissioners gave back $13 million of the levy.

-- Source: Hamilton County Auditor

''This is insidious,'' Rhodes said Tuesday.

''But this is why these things keep sneaking up on people when they don't know what's being done to them.''

Rhodes took exception with commissioners' estimates that a proposed levy to provide services for the county's abused and neglected children isn't a tax increase.

The five-year, 2.77-mill Childrens Services Levy approved in 1996 generated $195 million.

The proposed five-year renewal of the same levy at the same millage rate is expected to generate $203 million over the next five years.

Rhodes, though, notes that doesn't equate to taxpayers getting a break.

The owner of a $100,000 house in Hamilton County will pay $64.24 annually if the Childrens Services levy renewal is passed - $20.87 more, a 48 percent increase, than the $43.37 the owner of a $100,000 home paid this year.

''They're trying, either consciously or unconsciously, to hoodwink people,'' Rhodes charged.

But Hamilton County Administrator David Krings believes Rhodes is skewing the numbers to make Krings and the commissioners look greedy and untrustworthy to voters.

He notes that the $43.37 in property tax paid this year is low because commissioners decided not to collect - they use the term ''rebate'' - $10 million from that levy in 1999 and another $13 million this year.

That was done because, depending on who is explaining, the levy was originally overestimated or the county has been efficient and great stewards of that money.

Rhodes - whose office calculates the cost to homeowners of each levy and is inundated with complaints from taxpayers when they get their bills - calls it his duty to point out the different numbers.

''I think that we've got an obligation to speak out against these shenanigans,'' Rhodes said.

Publication date: 08-01-01