As the former county auditor for Delaware County, Todd Hanks knows who foots the bill to fund education and county-city services.

As the former county auditor for Delaware County, Todd Hanks knows who foots the bill to fund education and county-city services.

While homeowners have always paid most of the cost, he said, the gap between what they pay through property taxes and what comes from the commercial-industrial sector is widening.

Residential property owners in Delaware County now pay 78 percent of the taxes collected, Hanks said.

"It is imperative we start reducing the level of reliance on taxes paid by those people," he said. The only way to do that is by expanding the commercial base, he said.

Of the nearly $19.9-billion in property valuations this year, $15.5-billion is residential, $2.9-billion is commercial, $484-million is industrial and $969-million is agricultural, Hanks said.

Christine Blue, treasurer for Delaware City Schools, knows only too well how much that gap is widening.

In 1998, residential property within the city was valued at $228-million for tax purposes while commercial-industrial property was valued at $102-million. In 2008, residential property accounted for $531-million while commercial-industrial was valued at $161-million.
Those numbers are "very telling," she said.

"What makes it hard for us is the misconception in the community when they see all the growth and the number of new homes and they think we get lots of new money," Blue said. "That's not to say we don't get additional money, but it doesn't come close to paying for the services required to educate children."
"Every time we add commercial properties (to the tax rolls), we start notching those percentages back," Hanks said.

Interim county auditor Jerry Heston agrees.

"Delaware County has been more of a bedroom community for a number of years, which puts an extra burden on every homeowner," Heston said.

The city has an economic development director in place and the county is looking for someone with "star power" to complete the team and draw more businesses to Delaware County, he said.

According to city spokesman Lee Yoakum, 70 percent of the manufacturing in Delaware County is within the city limits. While that indicates the city has done a good job attracting those businesses, it still hasn't been enough to relieve the tax burden for homeowners, he said.

Hanks and Yoakum said the key to increasing the commercial tax base is having the right people in place to find those companies and having the infrastructure - roads, utilities and a fiber optic system - in place to close the deal.

"We have the best location. We have a stable economy. We need a strong infrastructure to get them to move here," Hanks said.