Butler County raises real estate tax by 1 mill

| Friday, Dec. 28, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

Butler County property owners will pay higher real estate taxes next year, though half of what officials first proposed.

Commissioners Bill McCarrier, A. Dale Pinkerton and James Eckstein on Thursday approved a $196 million budget that raises the tax 1 mill, instead of the 2-mill increase proposed earlier. For a home with a $100,000 market value, the increase means $17 more annually.

Though McCarrier and Pinkerton endorsed the 2-mill increase, Eckstein urged them to lower it through spending cuts, using income from Marcellus shale drilling operations and enacting higher health care premiums for some employees.

“We weren't happy with 2 mills,” McCarrier said. “I don't think we ever were.”

Commissioners said some type of tax increase was unavoidable. The county has to cover a combined $1.4 million in operating losses and a final bond payment at its Sunnyview nursing home, and the county's contribution to the 911 center is $1.4 million, up sharply from $600,000 two years ago.

To pare the tax increase, commissioners will use $900,000 in natural gas drilling impact fees for operations rather than put it into a reserve account. They took $357,000 from an account that pays workers' compensation, leaving a balance of just under $6 million, to pay for operations, Chief Clerk Amy Wilson said.

The commissioners lowered the county's contribution to Butler County Community College by $333,000 to $4.65 million, after Controller Jack McMillin complained the school has a surplus. He projected it to be around $12.7 million at the end of 2013. The proposed budget had listed a county contribution of $4.975 million.

McMillin said the college should use its surplus.

“All this money that's accumulated, what's the intended purpose?” McMillin said. “It's not fair. Those monies belong to Butler County taxpayers and students that paid tuition over the years.”

McCarrier said the surplus was generated by out-of-county and out-of-state students who pay higher tuition and was necessary to provide a local match to state grants for campus improvements.

College President Nicholas Neupauer could not be reached.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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