(Posted Aug. 13, 2015)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
The Madison County Budget Commission asked the county commissioners to consider raising conveyance fees to add revenue to the county’s general fund.
Steve Pronai, county prosecutor, Jennifer Hunter, county auditor, and Donna Landis, county treasurer, sit on the budget commission. Pronai and Hunter made the proposal on Aug. 10. Hunter said the additional revenue could help the county offset predicted increases in employee health insurance premiums and pay for planned repairs at the courthouse.
Conveyance fees are paid by anyone who buys real estate. By law, $1 per $1,000 purchase price goes to the state. Counties can impose up to $3 more per $1,000 in the form of a permissive real property transfer tax.
Madison County’s conveyance fees stand at $2—$1 goes to the state and $1 goes to the county’s general fund. The budget commission proposes raising the fee to $3, which would put $2 per $1,000 in real estate sales into the county’s general fund.
According to Hunter, the county saw $42 million in real estate sales in July of this year. The county took in $84,000 in conveyance fee revenue from those sales. With the proposed increase, that amount would have been $126,000.
Hunter pointed out that Madison County last raised conveyance fees in 1999. The additional revenues helped to fund the county’s tax map and GIS (geographic information systems) functions. She also noted that 52 counties in Ohio charge $4 in conveyance fees, the maximum allowed; 22 charge $3; two charge $3.50; 11 charge $2; and one charges $1.
Commissioner David Dhume said the budget commission presented logical arguments for raising the conveyance fees. He said that the county’s budget and carryover are in good shape, but that the county does have big-ticket costs coming up in the form of insurance rate increases and courthouse repairs.
Dhume noted that during the recession several years ago, the county opted to reduce budgets rather than raise fees, but that an increase in fees might be better accepted by the public when times are not desperate and the purposes for the increase are specific.
Commissioner Paul Gross disagreed.
“I have heartburn anytime we raise the tax burden on people,” he said. “I appreciate the perspective, but I see it as irresponsible to increase fees.”
Hunter countered, “I don’t see this as irresponsible. I think this is planning ahead.”
Gross said the budget commission has asked for increases in conveyance fees before, but always for different reasons. He prefers trimming costs to maintain a healthy budget, a practice that has allowed the county to increase its surplus and invest in infrastructure over the last few years, he said.
“I don’t want to increase fees forever for a one-time fix on the courthouse,” he added.
Commissioner Mark Forrest also stated that he opposes raising fees and taxes whenever possible.
Any proposed change in the conveyance fees would require public hearings.