TAXES

Tax bases reflect economic shift

DP&L, health care, retail are area counties’ top property tax payers.

ByJoanne Huist Smith
StaffWriter

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Health care, retail and real estate management companies are rising to the top of property tax bases in Greene, Miami, Montgomery and Warren counties compared to a decade ago, when factories dominated the economic landscape.

Transformation of the Day-ton-area economy from manufacturing to more service-oriented industries has driven up property tax collections in some counties, while others struggle to adjust to the loss of tens of millions of tax dollars.

“Its sort of the reality around here,” Wright State University economist Thom-as L. Traynor, professor and chair of the Economic Department said. “Property taxes are lagging indicators of what is happening around the region. Yes, we’re an economy that used to support big manufacturing that doesn’t exist anymore.”

The Dayton Daily News examined the principal property tax payers in the four counties to determine the types of businesses anchoring the property tax base in 2011 compared to 2002. The data came from the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report released by each county auditor in 2012.

Dayton Power & Light remained a constant across the decade as the leading property tax payer in Greene, Miami and Montgomery counties with combined tax bills of nearly $36.5 million. Only in suburban Warren County, did a company other than DP&L hold the No. 1 position on the list, Procter & Gamble Co.

The top 10 property tax payers in Montgomery County had total assessed value of $470 million in 2011, the greatest of the four counties. That figure reflects a $39.9 million decline compared to 2002’s top 10.

“When ‘07 and ‘08 hit, everyone saw a decline in their property tax collections as well as valuations,” Erik Collins, Montgomery County’s

director of community and economic development, said.

But, not all counties experienced a loss in the assessed value of their top property tax payers between 2002-2011.

The upscale Greene Town Center in Beaver-creek followed DP&L on Greene County’s list of principal property tax payers. Overall, the county’s total assessed value of more than $200.5 million in 2011, rose from $178 million in 2002.

Noticeably absent from the 2011 list was computer manufacturer System-ax (formerly Infotel Inc./ Midwest Micro) in Miami County — which ranked No. 8 in 2002 — but has since closed its factory operation.

Traynor said it’s important to note property taxes reflect a time gone by, not what is to come.

“The lists give us a look back over time, but I don’t think anything going on here tells us about the future,” he said.

Federal data shows that Ohio lost 3,500 manufacturing businesses in the past 10 years, including 200 in Montgomery County and about 130 in other Miami Valley counties.

Montgomery County

Collins called the county’s new economy a mosaic of a lot of different industries and many small businesses, that will serve the community far better than relying on one industry sector. The county has an estimated 24,229 businesses with 499 employees or less, according to Reference USA.

The once strong automotive industry isn’t dead, but it has shrunk.

Delphi Automotive Systems — renamed Delphi Corp. — ranked 10th on the list in 2002, but fell off by 2011. The company that once operated five manufacturing plants in the region, has just one now in Vandalia with 100 to 150 employees, Collins said.

“It’s kind of a bad/good thing,” Collins said. “Del-phi once had 29 plants in the United States, now they only have a few, but one of them is here.”

Dayton industry giant, NCR, whose assessed value was more than $24 million in 2002, dropped by half a decade later.

The gaps on the principal taxpayer list are being filled with new and different kinds of businesses, Collins said.

Miami Valley Hospital, Kettering Medical Center and Good Samaritan Hospital made the top 10 list in 2011. While hospitals are tax exempt, they are not tax free. Hospitals must pay property taxes on sites not used for their tax exempt purpose, such as office space leased to physicians.

“The uptick of properties being used in the health care field is meeting the needs of the marketplace,” Collins said. “Health care is definitely growing.”

Bryan Bucklew, president and CEO of the Greater Dayton Hospital Association, believes it’s a surprise to many outside the hospital industry that the institutions do pay property taxes. He also doesn’t think it’s a good economic strategy for hospitals to be a main economic driver in the region.

“The hospitals are working with organizations like the Dayton Development Coalition to expand our economic base,” Bucklew said. “We don’t want to be the No. 1 industry in the region because we don’t think that’s sustainable in the long run.”

Warren County

Warren County’s location between Dayton and Cincinnati has helped its tax base grow, Martin Russell, Warren County’s development director, said. In 2002, the top 10 property tax payers in Warren County had total assessed value of $88.9 million. Ten years later that figure had nearly doubled.

“I see that continuing,” Russell said. “Our leading industry is three-legged: agriculture, tourism and we have a robust manufacturing base. I see the list staying diversified.”

The largest contributor to the county’s tax base in 2011, Procter & Gamble, also is one of the county’s leading employers with a staff of about 2,000. Tourism, too, has a representative on the principal taxpayer list, Kings Island.

“People come to the ATP Tennis Tournament, they go to Kings Island or visit they shops in Waynesville,” Russell said. “Tourism is important to Warren County.”

Greene County

The Greene Town Center in Beavercreek — with 114 shops, restaurants, offices and apartments — ranked second on the county’s list in 2002 and held that position in 2011.

“The amount of The Greene Town Center’s property tax payments reflects not only the physical size of The Greene, but also the relatively high valuation of the property based upon the quality and value of the center and its tenants,” Chuck Vella, spokesman for the shopping mall said.

With a total assessed value of $40,574,530, The Greene paid $290,596.88 in property taxes in 2011. The mall has grown in value by about $14.5 million since 2002.

“The list is pretty solid right now. I don’t see any major changes in the foreseeable future,” David Kell, Greene County’s development director, said

Absence of a company from the 2011 list doesn’t always mean bad news for the economy, according to Kell.

Unison Industries LLC (formerly Elano) —on the list in 2002, but not in 2011 — remains one of Greene County’s top three largest private employers with more than 700 people on its payroll.

Miami County

Justin Sommer, Miami County’s director of development, said he was pleased to see only two of the seven manufacturers on the 2002 list have closed. Matsushila Electric Corporation of America in Troy, the old Panasonic picture tube factory, closed in 2005 displacing 480 employees.

“At the time, it was a big deal,” Sommer said.

In June 2006, the Clopay Corporation, a garage door manufacturer, moved into the building. The company employs 770 people, Summer said. Clopay didn’t replace Matusushila on the list of top taxpayers because of an Enterprise Zone Agreement with the city of Troy and Miami County granting a 75 percent property tax abatement for 10 years.

Infotel Inc./Midwest Micro, bought by System-ax in 1997, employed 900 at its peak in the 1990s. The computer manufacturer located near Fletcher closed December 31, laying off 86 people. Sales office staff kept their jobs and the company continues to service computers already purchased.

Sommer said that even though several factories have closed, manufacturing remains a leading industry in Miami County in terms of employees.

Contact this reporter at 937-225-2362 or email Joanne.Smith@coxinc.com.