Making Democracy Work

Know Hamilton County

Table of Contents

County Structure
Special Districts
County Finances
    Administration of Justice
Health & Human Services
Safety Services
Development & Housing
    Environment & Infrasturcture
Regional Affiliations

County Finances

Budget Administration

County officials, acting as agents of the State of Ohio, are responsible for administering, collecting and distributing property taxes for all local governmental units within Hamilton County, for reviewing all local budgets and for setting property tax rates.

County Treasurer

The County Treasurer receives taxes for the county and for local governmental units (not including municipal earnings and liquor taxes), and the County Auditor distributes to the local units the tax money collected on their behalf. The Treasurer is an elected official serving a four-year term.

County Auditor

The County Auditor serves as both the chief fiscal officer for the county and the real property assessor for all political subdivisions within the county. As chief fiscal officer the Auditor is responsible for maintaining the county's centralized accounting, payroll and benefits systems and for auditing payments made on behalf of county agencies. The Auditor is an elected official serving a four-year term.

Office of Budget and Strategic Initiatives

The Office of Budget and Strategic Initiatives, reporting to the County Administrator, is responsible for the development and implementation of the county budget.

County Budget Commission

The County Budget Commission, consisting of the auditor, treasurer and prosecuting attorney, reviews all local government budgets and determines that rates of taxation are adequate to meet expenditures and to retire bonds. The Budget Commission makes sure that tax rates do not exceed statutory limitations and that provisions for retirement of bonded indebtedness are being carried out properly and determines the distribution of the state's Local Government Funds to the governmental units in the county.

Budget Process

The County Administrator prepares a budget for the upcoming year. The recommended budget is considered by the Board of County Commissioners and a public hearing is held. The Commissioners may make changes to the Administrator's recommendation. The budget is then adopted along with the passage of the annual appropriations resolution. This must occur before December 31st of each year. Current year and prior years budgets are available on the website for the county Office of Budget and Strategic Initiatives.

Budget Requirements

  • Proposed expenditures may not exceed available resources.
  • About 17.2% of county budget funds comes from property taxes earmarked for specific purposes such as health care, zoo, mental health, mental retardation, children's services, senior services, museum center, police information center and bond retirement.
  • The County's General Fund consists of all receipts not earmarked or restricted as to purpose.
  • The amount of debt which a county may incur, both with and without voter approval, is limited by state law and is dependent on the total property tax valuation. The limit on non-voted debt is 1% of the total tax duplicate.

Sources of Revenue

Local Sources of Revenue

Property tax

  • The general property tax on real estate, tangible personal property of businesses and both real and personal property of public utilities, is the largest single source of revenue for local governmental units in Ohio. The assessed, or taxable, value of real property is 35% of the property's true market value.
  • The Ohio Constitution limits the rate of taxation of real property without voter approval to 10 mills. (A mill is $1 for each $1,000 taxable valuation.) This is called "inside millage." Within taxing districts (municipality/township, school district, county, special district), local governments, as a group, can only impose taxes up to a 10 mill limit. The allocation of inside millage among these entities is set by state law.
  • The general fund is the chief operating fund of the county. When there is a need for services beyond those that can be supplied by the general fund, local taxing authorities are permitted to tax real property through voter-approved levies. Voters may approve higher rates, either through charter provisions or by approval of tax levies and bond issues. These voted on rates are called "outside millage." Various human services agencies and other community groups that serve the public often seek supplemental funding through a special property tax levy.

Sales tax

In addition to the Ohio state 5.75% sales tax, Hamilton County collects an additional 1.25% sales tax allocated as follows:
  • 0.5% is designated to support the County's general fund.
  • 0.5% was approved by the voters in 1996 for the construction of Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ball Park.
  • 0.25% was approved by voters in 2014 for maintaining and rehabilitating Union Terminal for a period of five years,starting in 2015.

Automobile license tax

The county levies a $20 automobile license tax. These are allocated to the county and local governments as dictated by the Ohio Revised Code and are earmarked for highways and bridge repairs.

Lodging tax

The total county lodging tax (also known as the Transient Occupancy Tax) is 6.5%. Three percent is used mainly to support the Greater Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau. The remaining 3.5% is used for the renovation and expansion of the downtown Cincinnati Convention Center and possibly an expansion of the Sharonville Convention Center.

Income tax

Thirty-three cities and villages levy a tax on earnings or income.


The county, townships and municipalities receive license fees from dealers in alcoholic beverages and 64% of estate taxes. Local governments also collect revenues from fees, charges, permits and fines and from interest on deposited funds not currently needed.

Nonlocal Sources of Revenue

Ohio returns some state-collected tax money to local governmental units.
  • Townships, municipalities, libraries, as well as the county, share in the state's Local Government Fund.
  • Local governments receive a share of state auto registration fees and the motor vehicle.
  • They also receive grants (e.g. for welfare and education) from both state and federal governments.

Tax Levy Review Committee

The Tax Levy Review Committee (TLRC) is a 9-member citizen board, established by the county commissioners in 1995 to study and make recommendations concerning any tax levy request to be put before the voters of Hamilton County. The TLRC was established to provide independent input to the commissioners and to serve as representatives of the taxpayers of Hamilton County in the levy process. More information including the TLRC members, levy review timelines and the results of the TLRC work is available on the TLRC page of the Hamilton County website.

Property Taxes Levies & Rates

The total tax rate on an individual property is the sum of the tax rates for all the taxing districts in which the property lies. The rates, therefore, vary considerably from place to place within Hamilton County, ranging in 2013 from 70.71 to 160.59 mills for the full year. Rates are based on the county-wide levies show below, as well as the rate approved for each area school. The Hamilton County Auditor website lists the most current rates for county-wide levies, by school district and total tax levy rates.

2013 County-wide Residential Property Tax Levies

Shown in Mills per $1 for each $1,000 taxable valuation.

Tax Levy Rates 2013