by German Lopez
15 days ago
Posted In: Budget
at 10:31 AM | Permalink
Plan includes property tax hike, police and fire layoffs
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. released his operating
budget plan for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 today. The plan makes
lower-than-expected cuts to police, fire and other city departments to
help balance the $35 million deficit in the operating budget for fiscal
year 2014, but it would also effectively raise property taxes.
The City Charter allows the city to leverage 6.1 mills in
property taxes, but City Council only approved the use of 5.7 mills for
the operating budget in 2014, up from 4.6 mills in 2013. The budget plan
would leverage the full 6.1 mills in 2015, effectively raising annual
property taxes between 2014 and 2015 by $34 for every $100,000 in property value.Water Works rates would also be reworked with a new
pricing structure, which would add $3.11 to a Water Works customer’s
bill each quarter.
The budget plan recommends laying off 66 employees in the
Police Department, down from a previous estimate of 149. Fire
personnel layoffs were also reduced to 71, down from 118. In other
departments, 64 would be laid off.
The budget release estimates the fire layoffs would lead
to an estimated 10 brownouts a day in which one truck in a firehouse would not run.About $20.4 million of the fiscal year 2014 budget gap would
be closed by cutting expenditures, while the rest would be closed with
changes in revenue.
The budget release says the cuts are a result of the
city’s parking plan falling through in light of a referendum effort and
legal challenges: “While the Manager’s budget, with support from policy
makers, has typically centered on strategies for growth to expand the
local economy, this budget is constructed in light of the lack of
revenue from the Parking Modernization and Lease, approved by the
majority of City Council but held up in litigation.”
With the reduced layoffs, the city will save money by paying less in accrued leave and unemployment insurance.
Previously, city officials estimated it would cost about $10
million to lay people off, but that number was reduced to
$3.5 million in the revised budget plan.
The budget plan would also eliminate 17 vacant full-time
positions in various departments and delay filling other vacant
positions, which the budget release says would cause some strain: “These
vacant position eliminations and prolonged position vacancies would
further challenge departments that have already experienced significant
funding and position reductions in prior budget years.”
The plan would also increase employees’ cost share for
health care from 5 percent to 10 percent, reduce cost of living
adjustments and force furloughs, which would span to executive and
senior level management positions, including the city manager. The
changes effectively add up to a 1.9 percent salary reduction, according to the
Other cuts in the budget were selected through the
Priority-Driven Budgeting Process, which used
surveys and public meetings to gauge what city programs are most important
to local citizens. About $1.7 million would come from
personnel and service reductions in the Health Department’s Community Health Environmental
Inspections programs, the Law Department and the Department of Recreation.
Another $1.5 million would be cut from funding to outside entities, including human services agencies, the Neighborhood Support Program, the Greater
Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce and the African American Chamber of
Furthermore, subsidies for “Heritage Events,” such as the
Findlay Market Opening Day Parade and St. Patrick’s Day Parade, would be
eliminated, along with all arts funding.
The budget plan would also eliminate various other
services, including the Bush Recreation Center in Walnut Hills, the
Office of Environmental Quality’s Energy Management program and the
Cincinnati Police Department’s mounted patrol unit.
The budget plan includes a slew of new fees: a $75 fee for
accepted Community Reinvestment Area residential tax abatement
applications, a $25 late fee for late income tax filers, a $100 fee for
fire plan reviews, an unspecified hazardous material cleanup fee, a
50-cent hike for admission into the Krohn Conservatory and an
unspecified special events fee for city resources used for special
The budget plan would also use casino revenue: $9.1 million in 2013 and 2014 and $7.5 million in 2015.
The city was originally planning to lease its parking
assets to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority to help balance the
operating budget and fund economic development projects (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27), but the plan will be on the November ballot this year if court challenges are successful.
But if the city is successful in court, the budget release
claims many of the cuts could be undone by using revenue from the
The city manager’s office says the budget must be approved
by City Council and the mayor by June 1 to provide 30 days for the
budget’s implementation in time for fiscal year 2014, which begins July
Previously, the city could have used an emergency clause
to eliminate a 30-day waiting period for implementing laws, but City
Solicitor John Curp says the court challenges have effectively
eliminated the power behind emergency clauses by making all laws, even
laws passed with an emergency clause, susceptible to referendum within
The operating budget is separate from the streetcar budget, which is also facing a $17.4 million budget shortfall.
The streetcar is funded through the capital budget, which can’t be used
to balance the operating budget because of budgeting limits established
in state law.
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 3, 2013
When Cincinnati found out about the city
manager’s parking plan, it was not through a press conference or a
widely dispersed announcement from the city; it was through a silently
released memo that media outlets stumbled upon almost by accident.
by German Lopez
85 days ago
Parking plan's final public hearing, officials list Plan B, governor's approval hits highs
The tone was negative once again in the final public hearing
for the city manager’s plan to lease the city’s parking system. Of the
two dozen speakers, only four were positive. Tabitha Woodruff,
who is with the Ohio Public Interest Research Group, voiced mixed feelings about the plan: “As we feared it provides a short-term solution
to a long-term budget problem, raises hours and rates on citizens, and
has the potential to incur high transaction costs. … We’re encouraged,
however, by the selection of a public entity, the Port Authority and by
numerous proposed provisions of the lease intended to insure the city
maintains control of details like rates and hours.” CityBeat wrote about the plan in detail here.
If City Council does not agree to lease Cincinnati’s parking system, the city manager’s office says the city will be forced to lay off 344 employees,
including 80 firefighter and 189 police positions, and eliminate Human
Services Funding, but critics argue there are better alternatives.
Mayoral candidate John Cranley says casino and parking revenue and cuts
to non-essential programs could help clear the deficit without the plan.Gov. John Kasich’s job approval rating has risen above 50 percent for the first time,
and he’s beating all the potential Democratic gubernatorial
candidates in theoretical match-ups, according to a Quinnipiac University
poll. CityBeat covered the governor’s budget plan, which will set the state’s policy blueprint for the next two years, here.
The Ohio House will vote on Kasich’s Ohio Turnpike plan today, which leverages the Turnpike for a statewide infrastructure program.
With the approval of Metro’s operating budget, City Council and Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) have ended their dispute
over streetcar funding. Council members had been approving monthly
budgets as they worked things out with SORTA, which manages the region’s
bus system. SORTA filed a lawsuit disputing the limits of the transit fund, but it dropped the suit
after the city said it will not use the money for maintenance of streets, sidewalks
and streetlights. (Correction: This previously said the city will “only use the money for streets, sidewalks and streetlights” when the opposite is true.)The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) says the state’s schools are making improvement, but they still “have room to grow.”
In the latest state report cards, Ohio schools improved in 14 of 26
categories and met the state’s performance goal on 21 out of 26, with
particularly strong gains in math and science, but ODE says, “The
performance of Ohio’s economically disadvantaged students and minorities
remains unacceptably low.” The state auditor has a problem with how Ohio’s schools report data through what he calls a “just-trust-me” system.
The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a 40-year agreement
with the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) that
will lease the county-owned Memorial Hall and provide renovations to the
105-year-old building. County officials have long said the building,
which is used to host concerts, shows and speaking events, is in dire
need of upgrades, particularly overhauls to its roof, windows, facade
work, floors, air conditioning and bathrooms — all of which will now be
financed by 3CDC with the help of tax credits.The commissioners also approved a two-year policy agenda, which generally outlines their plans for county finances and taxes, infrastructure and economic development.
The Over-the-Rhine Eco Garden could be forced to relocate
if the city approves CitiRama’s development proposal. The move would be
fully funded by the city’s Department of Community Development, with
startup and relocation costs paid for.
Ohio’s concealed weapon carry permits reached record highs in 2012 with more than 76,000 permits issued.
Fewer Ohioans are starting their own businesses, and the state’s level of self-employment is one of the lowest in the nation, according to a report from Dayton Daily News.
With Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino set to open March 4, gambling addiction could be one of the downsides to the casino’s glitz and job creation, but extra funds for the state’s treatment programs and special training for casino employees could help combat the problem.
A medical marijuana amendment could be on Ohio’s 2013 ballot, but anti-drug groups are already speaking out against it.
Think the 114-year-old Japanese woman has reached an impressive age? Guffaw. Popular Science lists six much older animals.
by German Lopez
87 days ago
City releases parking documents, parking plan gets hearing, restroom could cost $35,000
Following CityBeat’s blog post yesterday, the city released the official documents
for the city manager’s parking plan. So far, no one has reported
anything outrageous or unexpected. If you see anything, feel free to
Of the two dozen people who spoke at a public hearing for the parking plan yesterday, all but two opposed the plan.
Much of the opposition came from people who said they were worried parking will be expensive, but the city manager’s office says it will take three years for
parking rates to go up in Downtown and six years for rates to go up in neighborhoods after an initial hike
to 75 cents. CityBeat covered the parking plan in detail here.
Cincinnati officials are now saying that a freestanding restroom could cost as low as $35,000.
Officials say the public restroom is needed to accommodate growing
activity and population in Over-the-Rhine and Downtown. Some critics
were initially worried that the facility would cost $100,000.
Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino will partner up
with the Cincinnati Police Department to keep out cheats and prevent
theft. The casino will also have advanced surveillance equipment,
allowing them to detect anyone around the casino before they even get
into the building. It may seem like a lot, but casinos do tend to
attract cheaters and other troublemakers, according to Ohio Casino
Control Commission Director of Enforcement Karen Huey. The Horseshoe
Casino is set to open March 4.
A report from the Governors Highway Safety Association found more teen drivers died in crashes this year than the last two,
and some officials fear wireless devices may be a leading cause. In
Ohio, the six-month grace period for the teen wireless ban expires
Friday, which will allow police officers to issue tickets instead of
warnings to teenagers using any wireless devices while driving.
Gov. John Kasich’s budget proposal would cut back a state-funded college internship program, which awarded $11 million to universities around the state.
Ohio Democrats are asking Kasich to put his Ohio Turnpike funding promises in writing
after they found out the governor’s budget proposal doesn’t actually say
that 90 percent of leveraged funds will remain in northern Ohio, which
Kasich originally promised.
Barry Horstman, investigative reporter at The Cincinnati Enquirer, collapsed and died in the newsroom yesterday. CityBeat offers its condolences to Horstman’s co-workers, family and friends.
The University of Cincinnati got a $2.3 million grant
from the National Cancer Institute to train cancer researchers. “Our
emphasis is on training the next generation of cancer researchers to
translate basic science discoveries into improved patient care,” Susan
Waltz, co-principal investigator of the grant and professor of cancer
biology at the UC College of Medicine, said in a statement.
A homemade jetpack can reach altitudes up to 25,000 feet, but it might have some trouble landing.
by German Lopez
88 days ago
City says official details, contracts will be ready before City Council vote
City Hall will host public hearings about the city manager’s
parking and economic development plan today, but the hearings will take
place before the public knows all the official details. Meg Olberding,
city spokesperson, says the legal documents and contracts for the deal
aren’t ready to be released yet, but they will be ready before City
Council holds a vote.
“We’re still finalizing the documents,” Olberding says.
“These are long, complicated documents, so we want to make sure they’re
done right, and we’ll put them online as soon as they’re available.”
When the documents are released, they will include
Cincinnati’s deal with the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development
Authority, but they will not divulge specifics on the Port Authority’s
contracts with AEW, Xerox, Denison and Guggenheim — the four private
companies partnering with the Port Authority to manage city’s parking
Without the full details, mayoral candidate John Cranley,
who opposes the parking plan, says he’s concerned the public is going
into the deal blind: “Why are they having public hearings before giving
the contract to the public and giving us the exact details? What they do
is sit back and selectively give information.”
The lack of details has already led to some surprises since the parking proposal was announced to the public. On Feb. 21, Olberding told CityBeat
the city will be able to bypass the so-called cap on parking meter rate
increases through unanimous vote from a five-person advisory committee, approval from the city manager and a final nod from
the Port Authority. The process, which begins with an advisory committee that will include four members appointed by the Port Authority and one selected by
the city manager, will allow the city to raise and lower the cap in case of changing economic needs, says Olberding.Under the initial plan, parking meter rates will be
set to increase annually by 3 percent or the rate of inflation on a
compounded basis, with any increases coming in 25-cents-an-hour increments. That
should translate to 25-cent increases every three years for Downtown and
every six years for neighborhoods, says Olberding.
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. unveiled his parking
proposal on Feb. 19, promising $92 million upfront and an additional $3
million a year to pay off the city’s budget deficits for 2014 and 2015,
build a 30-story high-rise Downtown with a grocery store and 300 luxury
apartments, renovate Tower Place Mall and complete the I-71/MLK
Interchange project (“City Manager Proposes Parking, Economic Development Plan,” issue of Feb. 20).
by German Lopez
94 days ago
Dohoney touts “public-public partnership”
In a presentation to City Council Feb.
19, City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. unveiled an unexpected parking
proposal that will solve a $25.8 million budget deficit for the 2014
fiscal year and avoid full privatization. The 30-year plan will also put
more than $100 million toward economic development in the city.
The plan involves teaming up with the
Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority and some private
operators to manage and modernize Cincinnati’s parking assets. Dohoney
called it a “public-public partnership” that will allow Cincinnati to
keep control over rates, operation hours and the placement of meters.
The money raised by the plan will be used
for multiple development projects around the city, including the
I-71/MLK Interchange, Tower Place Mall and a high-rise that will house a
downtown grocery store.
The new parking plan will cap rate
increases at 3 percent or the cost of living, with any increases coming
in 25-cent increments. Private operators will not be allowed to change
operation hours, but hours will be initially expanded to 8 a.m. to 9
p.m. downtown and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in neighborhoods.
The proposal will not immediately
increase downtown’s $2-an-hour rates, but it will increase all
neighborhood parking meters to 75 cents an hour. Afterward, the rate cap
will make it so downtown rates can only be increased every four years
and neighborhood rates can only be increased every 10 to 11 years.
But the rate hikes will only come after
technological improvements are made to parking meters. The new meters
will allow users to pay with a smartphone, which will enable remote
payment without walking back to the meter. After the plan’s 30 years are
up, parking assets will be returned to the city with all the new
technological upgrades, according to Dohoney.
Some critics were originally concerned
that private operators will aggressively enforce parking rules to run
bigger profits, but Dohoney said enforcement standards will remain the
Enforcement will be done through booting
instead of towing, according to the plan. Booting will only be used
after the accumulation of three unpaid parking tickets, which is similar
to how towing works today. The boots will be automatically removed once
the tickets are paid, which will be possible to do remotely through a
The plan, which is a tax-exempt bond
deal, will provide the city with $92 million upfront cash and $3 million
in annual installments after that, although the city manager said the
yearly payments will increase over time. The city originally promised $7
million a year from the deal, but Dohoney said estimates had to be
brought down as more standards and limitations were attached to address
The money will first be used to pay for a
$25.8 million deficit in the 2014 fiscal year. Another $6.3 million
will be set aside for the working cap reserve and $20.9 million will be
put in a reserve to pay for a projected deficit in the 2015 fiscal year.
The rest of the funds will be used for
economic development. About $20 million will go to the I-71/MLK
Interchange, which would match $40 million from the state. The project
is estimated to create $750 million in economic impact, with $460
million of that impact in Hamilton County. Dohoney says the economic
impact will create 5,900 to 7,300 permanent jobs, and ultimately bring
in $33 million in earnings taxes, which means the plan will eventually
pay for itself. He also says the funding from the parking deal will
allow the city and state to complete the project within two to three
years, instead of the seven to 10 years it would take if the city waited
for support from the federal government.
If the state does not agree to take up
the I-71/MLK Interchange project, Dohoney promised a “mega job deal”
that will create 2,500 jobs.
With $12 million for development and $82
million in leveraged funds, the city will also take on massive
development projects downtown. Tower Place Mall will undergo a massive
conversion. The city will also tear down Pogue’s Garage at Fourth and
Race streets and replace it with a 30-floor high-rise that will include
300 luxury apartments, 1,000 parking spaces and a grocery store.
The plan will also use $3 million for the
Wasson Line right-of-way and $4 million for the next phase of Smale
Riverfront Park, which should be completed in time for the 2015 Major
League Baseball All-Star Game.
AEW, Xerox, Denison and Guggenheim will
partner with the city and Port Authority for the plan. AEW will manage
assets, Xerox will handle parking operations and on-street spaces,
Denison will operate off-street spaces and manage facilities and
equipment and Guggenheim will act as underwriter and capital provider.
After the City Council hearing,
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld released a statement that raised concerns
about expanded meter operation hours, which Sittenfeld fears could
burden certain neighborhoods. He also pointed out the plan will not fix
Cincinnati’s long-term structural deficit problems. Still, he said the
local Port Authority’s management could make the plan “worthy of
Sittenfeld has been skeptical of the
parking plan since it was first announced in October. In the past, he
warned privatization could cause parking rates to skyrocket. ©