The economy has already taken its toll on millions of Americans, and now in Butler County the resulting financial struggles are spilling over into the government.
Because of many residents’ failure to pay taxes, the treasurer’s office has collected about $400,000 less than it had at this same time in 2009, said Nancy Nix, Butler County treasurer.
Nix said the economy is undoubtedly to blame for the late taxes.
“We’re at almost 11 percent unemployment in the county, so that’s mostly it,” Nix said. “It would also be the subprime lending. It’s basically the harsh financial times.”
Despite harsh times, the government has to get its money somehow and Nix said they almost always find a way.
“We have first lean on the home, so we go in and foreclose after (the taxpayer) has been delinquent for two years,” Nix said. “When the house is sold, we are paid first. The conventional wisdom is we are always paid first.”
The fact taxes aren’t coming in on time could have consequences. Nix said there is a small possibility the county budget could suffer.
“The lower property values and the fact that people are struggling to pay their taxes will have a small impact on the county’s general fund, but we’re unsure of the exact numbers right now,” Nix said.
Mike Tilton, representative for the Butler County Auditor’s Office, said the unpaid taxes haven’t caused any noticeable changes in the county’s funds quite yet.
“So far it hasn’t amounted to enough to really affect the budget,” Tilton said. “But it is something all government agencies, including schools, townships and offices should be keeping an eye on.”
Nix agreed. She said it’s not the missing $400,000 that’s the problem.
“We normally increase (our tax revenue) every year,” Nix said. “So collecting less than we did a year ago even by an insignificant amount … still means we’re not increasing, we’re not growing.”
Miami University sophomore Abby Stein said she’s not surprised by Butler County’s tax struggle.
“I live in Hamilton and it’s been obvious the economy is struggling here, too, and not just nationally,” Stein said. “You’ve got to expect that with all the financial issues, people will eventually stop being able to pay their taxes. And I guess now they have.”
Nix said the county understands the financial issues residents are facing and is willing to be flexible with taxpayers.
“We’ll give them several chances,” Nix said. “It’s not like we just lower the boom on people. We do want to work with them.”
Although Nix is willing to work with struggling taxpayers, she said in order to maintain government services the county must continue taking in money.
“Eventually, everyone must pay their taxes,” Nix said.