Wednesday, August 11th, 2010
By Shelley Grieshop
Property transfer fee to increase
  Mercer County commissioners on Tuesday approved an increase in real property transfer fees, with the additional money going to the county's economic development office.
The current fee of $2.50 per $1,000 of real property value will increase by $1 effective Oct. 1. An individual transferring property worth $100,000 will be charged an additional $100.
Only the additional revenue will be diverted to the economic development office, which is led by director Jared Ebbing. Based on this year's projections, the fee could generate an additional $74,000 in the coming year to be used in ways such as seed money to snag grants for special projects, Ebbing said. The office's total budget this year was $169,121.
The remaining portion of the real property fee will continue to benefit the county's general fund.
Commissioners approved the fee increase immediately following Tuesday's second public hearing on the issue. The first hearing was Aug. 3. By law, two public hearings must be held prior to passage.
Commissioners sought to create the dedicated funding stream to insure the economic development office stays operational. The county isn't mandated to fund the office. With ongoing revenue decreases and rumors that Gov. Ted Strickland could cut local government funding by 30 percent next year, the economic development office could face closure without another funding source, commissioners have said.
About a half dozen citizens - such as real estate agents and community leaders - attended both public meetings. No one spoke in opposition of the fee increase.
"I'm very much in favor of keeping what we have and improving it," said Linda May, an employee of Bruns Realty and member of the Lake Restoration Committee.
Others backing Ebbing and his staff at this week's meeting were Grand Lake St. Marys State Park Assistant Manager Brian Miller, Lake Improvement Association member Tom Rampe and Jeff Vossler, vice president of finance at Grand Lake Health Systems.
Vossler said he likes the idea of earmarking the funds for something specific.
"It's easier to see what the value is for the county. I support that," he said.
Local real estate agent Jim Dabbelt said Ebbing has done a "phenomenal job" obtaining funding for numerous communities and businesses in the area, as well as for projects to clean up Grand Lake.
"In my mind this is absolutely necessary," he added.
Ebbing said he appreciated the favorable comments. Like everyone else, he doesn't like the idea of raising fees or taxes but believes setting aside the funds is a pro-active move by the county.
The economic development office routinely applies for and administers grants and low-interest loans for community improvement projects and the growth of new and current businesses. The agency currently is working with several area organizations to tap funding sources for lake clean-up projects.
Since the economic development's inception in Mercer County about 20 years ago, it has generated nearly $53.5 million for various countywide projects, Ebbing said.
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