Hamilton County Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) Capital Grant Program


Hamilton County’s Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) is collected for the purpose of paying off bond debt that was created to renovate the Duke Energy Convention Center. The tax comes directly from people staying in hotels in Hamilton County. In years in which the County collects a surplus, the residual revenue can be offered as grants to communities within the county. By law, this money must be used for tourism and convention capital purposes.

Please reference the below FAQ for general information on the program and how to apply. A link to our application can also be found on the right side of this page. 


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the TOT?

TOT is an abbreviation for transient occupancy tax. This is a 6.5% tax levied by Hamilton County per ORC 5739.09. The dollars collected from this tax are designated per the ORC to Greater Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau and to cover the bonds issued in 2004 for the renovation and expansion of the Duke Energy Center.

What is the TOT Capital Grant program?

In recent years, TOT revenues have exceeded on-going obligations which has left the County with residual dollars that can be spent on capital projects which service the local convention and visitors industry by supporting the purchase, construction, or renovation of a building or the purchase of capital equipment that will increase room night bookings and enhance the ability to more effectively promote convention facilities in Hamilton County.

Who/What projects are eligible?

Per the ORC, convention facilities, entertainment facilities, sports facilities and political subdivisions are eligible to apply. It is important to note that private entities and hotels are not eligible to apply, as the ORC does not allow the County to distribute these funds to a private entity. 

Projects should be capital in nature or tied to a future capital project (i.e. planning study for expansion of a convention center). 

How do I apply?

To apply, a municipality should download the current Hamilton County TOT Capital Grant Application   and complete the application based on the instructions. All complete applications should then be sent electronically to:

Hamilton County Budget Office
john.bruggen@hamilton-co.org

All requests will be evaluated as they are received, there is no deadline for application submission.

Why are projects typically denied?

The County carefully reviews all applications to ensure that the grant complies with the Ohio Revised Code and meets the general guidelines and purpose of the grant program. When grant requests are not funded it is typically due to the following reasons:

Applicant was not a municipal or quasi government entity
Applicant was not seeking capital funding, rather they were requesting funds for general maintenance
Applicant’s project would not support the convention and visitor’s infrastructure and would not increase hotel/motel room nights

It is important to note that the county makes every effort possible to work with the applicants toward establishing eligibility and/or to identify an alternative funding sources to help them move their project forward.

What projects have been funded in previous years?

In prior years, the County has awarded a total of $1,327,000 in TOT Capital Grants from the cash remaining after meeting their on-going obligations. Below is a breakdown of the grants awarded: 

 

Year

Agency

Project

Amount

2015

City of Blue Ash

Cooper Creek Event Center parking lot expansion

$250,000

2016

Hamilton County

Memorial Hall renovation and construction project

$500,000

2016

CVB of Greater Cincinnati

Duke Energy Center Planning Study

$250,000

2016

City of Blue Ash

Cooper Creek Event Center Improvements

$237,000

2016

City of Springdale

Demolition of the former Springdale Sheraton Hotel

$50,000

2016

Sharonville Convention Center

Future Planning Study

$40,000

 

TOTAL

 

$1,327,000

What else is funded with TOT dollars?

Below is a summary of the obligations Hamilton County currently has per its Cooperative Agreement with the Convention Facilities Authority and what was paid for with the 2016 Lodging Taxes (please note that these are annual obligations per various agreements or bond covenants):

$5,186,291 – Duke Energy Center Debt Service Payment (total debt was $5,843,431, but County only covers a portion)

$1,300,000 – Contribution to Sharonville Convention Center to cover debt service (if not fulfilled this becomes a County General Fund Obligation)

$1,000,000 – To the CVB for marketing and tourism

$93,750 – To the City of Cincinnati to assist with the relocation of murals from CVG to the Duke Energy Center

$50,000 – To the Sharonville Convention Center for repairs and maintenance

Who do I contact with more questions?

If you have additional questions or want more information, please contact:

John Bruggen
John.Bruggen@hamilton-co.org
513-946-4316

How are projects evaluated and approved?

All requests are reviewed by internally County staff, including representatives from County Administration and the Prosecutor’s office.  A recommendation is then made to the Board of County Commissioners. The Board has the final approval authority for these grant awards.

All entities that are awarded a grant are then required to enter into an agreement with the Board of County Commissioners, prior to distribution of the funds. This agreement will outline the basic program milestones and deliverables to ensure that the TOT dollars are spent appropriately and according to ORC regulations. 

It typically takes two months for a project to be approved.

Is there a specific form to be used by hotel in determining the amount of tax to pay the County?

Yes. It is required to be filled out by lodging establishments on a quarterly basis. Download the Lodging Excise Tax Return here.  

Who is exempt from paying lodging tax?

The following organizations and individuals do not have to pay lodging tax:

  • Employees of any branch of the federal government traveling on official business. Payment must be made by government check or government credit card.

  • Employees of any organization established by the Congress of the United States.

  • Employees of any state or local government (state, city, county, township) outside of the State of Ohio traveling on official business. Payment must be made by government check or government credit card.

  • Employees of any public school system outside of the State of Ohio traveling on official business. Payment must be made by school board check or school board credit card.

  • Non-transient guests who occupy a hotel room for 30 or more consecutive days.  If they occupy a room for 30 or more consecutive days, they are exempt from the lodging tax for their entire stay. This includes airline companies, etc., who rent a room for 30 or more consecutive days, regardless of who actually stays in the room. It may be different flight crew members each night.  

Other agencies (churches, social groups, Ohio schools, Ohio government agencies, etc.) may be exempt from Ohio sales tax because they are considered tax exempt organizations, but they are not exempt from paying the lodging tax.

How do I let the County know a room rental is exempt from the tax?

For each qualified stay the owner must complete a Certificate of Exemption   to accompany all filings where an exemption is listed. Remember to keep a photocopy for your own files.

When are lodging tax payments due?

QUARTERLY PERIOD DUE DATE
January-March April 30
April-June July 31
July-September October 31
October-December January 31

 

What happens if payment is late?

Failing to report tax or paying after the deadline could result in penalties and interest being charged.

 

Contact:
John Bruggen, 
Budget Director


138 E. Court Street,
Room 603
Cincinnati, OH 45202

PH: (513) 946-4316