by Andy Brownfield
Council also approves 2014 property tax increase
Cincinnati City Council on Friday approved a budget that
relies on parking privatization as a means to plug a $34 million budget
deficit while also raising property taxes in 2014.
Mayor Mark Mallory opened up the council meeting with a
moment of silent prayer for the 27 students and adults killed at an
elementary school in Connecticut.
“I want us all to take a moment and put into perspective what we’re doing today,” he said.
Council voted to increase the property tax by about 24
percent, from 4.6 mills (a mill is equal to one-tenth of a cent) to 5.71
mills. That means Cincinnatians would pay an additional $34 for every
$100,000 of their home’s value.
The vote reverses a move made last year by conservatives on council, who reduced property taxes.
Council also passed a budget that relies on $21 million
from a proposed lease of the city’s parking facilities — a deal that is
expected to be voted on in March. Of the proposals submitted to the city
so far, Cincinnati stands to gain $100 million to $150 million in an
upfront payment and a share of the profits over the 30-year lease.
“My concern about balancing this budget with a onetime
revenue source by selling our parking system seems to be ill advised,”
said Independent Councilman Chris Smitherman. “We don’t know how council
will vote in March … but we have tied not only the budget to this one
time revenue source, but we have also tied reciprocity.”
Council nixed a plan to eliminate tax reciprocity for
people who lived in Cincinnati but worked elsewhere and paid income tax
in both cities.
Though the budget doesn’t mention parking privatization, council hasn’t mentioned other options to close the budget deficit.
If opponents of parking privatization want to keep
facilities under city control, they would have to come up with $21
million in revenue elsewhere or make $21 million in cuts.
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld suggested using casino revenue,
cutting travel expenses, downsizing the ratio of managers to workers,
sharing services with nearby jurisdictions and downsizing the city’s
fleet as ways to cut down the budget.
Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan, long an advocate of
downsizing the police and fire departments, voted against the property tax increase
in protest of what she said was bloated spending on departments that
were outpacing population growth.
The budget also requires Cincinnati to accept police and
fire recruit classes in 2014, regardless of whether the city gets a
federal grant to fund the classes.
The budget also restores the Cincinnati Police
Department’s mounted patrol, which patrols downtown on horseback. The
city will use $105,000 from off-duty detail fees from businesses that
hire off-duty officers. Council also voted to start charging those
businesses an extra $1.64 on top of the off-duty pay.
Council also voted to shift $50,000 for repairs and
upgrades to the Contemporary Arts Center to pay for maintenance and
beautification at Washington Park, which is operated by 3CDC.
by Andy Brownfield
Head of community group sends letter opposing parking privatization
One of Cincinnati’s largest neighborhoods and business
districts is adamantly against a proposed plan to lease the city’s
A Dec. 7 letter to the mayor from Clifton Town Meeting
President Peter Schneider calls the plan “baffling,” “short sighted” and
The city administration wants to lease all Cincinnati
parking meters, garages and surface lots for 30 years in exchange for an
upfront payment of at least $40 million and a share of the profits.
The city wants to use $21 million of the upfront payment to help close a $34 million hole in the upcoming budget.
Schneider writes that the proposal is bad for business,
making it harder for customers to find cheap or free parking near retail
areas like Clifton’s Ludlow Avenue corridor.
He also worried that a private operator would ratchet up
the price for parking, making the facilities “unidirectional ATM’s (sic) benefiting a third party that provides minimal or no value to the
Schneider also complains that Cincinnatians have not been given details of the deal or the opportunity to weigh in on it.
“It is unconscionable that the City administration would
allow a similar plan (to the citizen-defeated red-light cameras)
affecting parking meters and services be railroaded through City Hall
without the appropriate sunshine and input of the populace,” he wrote.
He also compares the proposal to Hamilton County’s
mishandling of the stadium deals, claiming that a similar long-term
lease is unwise.
Schneider ends the letter by admitting that there are some
aspects of outsourcing that could be beneficial, such as private
management of surface lots or garages or maintenance, but the idea of
privatizing everything goes too far.
by Andy Brownfield
City workers would get raises, protection from layoffs if City Council approves parking plan
In order to win the support of the largest city employees
union for the leasing of Cincinnati’s parking facilities, the city
administration has agreed to pay raises and no layoffs for three years.
There’s a catch — municipal employees only get the raises
and job security if the city’s parking meters, garages and surface lots
are leased to a private company for 30 years.
City Manager Milton Dohoney wants to lease the facilities
for at least $40 million upfront and a share of parking profits for the
next 30 years. He’d use $21 million of the upfront payment to patch a
$34 million deficit in the city’s budget.
During recent budget hearings before City Council, Dohoney
said extra revenue was needed to avoid the layoff of 344 city
In a memo to the mayor and city council members, Dohoney outlined the agreement between the city and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).
Any municipal employees who will lose their jobs because of the deal would be placed in other city jobs with no loss of wages. No city employees covered by the union would be laid off between 2013 and 2016. City employees will receive a 1.5 percent cost of living
raise for the 2013-2014 contract year and another 1 percent raise for
the next contract year. AFSCME members will continue city vehicle maintenance work from 2013-2016.
However, if City Council doesn’t approve of the plan to privatize parking, city employees get nothing.
Public employees in Cincinnati have not been given raises
in almost four years. Meanwhile, council voted last month to give Dohoney a 10
percent raise and a $35,000 bonus. Dohoney had not received a merit raise since 2007, but had collected cost of living adjustments and bonuses over the years.
by Andy Brownfield
City Manager says without lease, 344 city workers would lose jobs
Cincinnati City Council members today focused a lot of attention
on a contentious plan to lease city parking assets during a Monday
committee presentation on the 2013 budget.
It was the first opportunity council members had to
publicly question the budget’s architects. The proposed budget would
cover the first half of 2013. The city is switching over to a fiscal
year starting in July.
Many council members expressed concern over the plan
to use $21 million from a proposed 30-year lease of the city’s parking
meters, garages and lots to help close a $34 million budget deficit.
“It seems like … the city budget wins, but the citizens are losing,” said Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld.
City Manager Milton Dohoney said the parking facilities
net Cincinnati about $7 million a year. That would equal out to about
$210 million over 30 years.
Sittenfeld called into question the wisdom of leasing the
facilities for an estimated $50 million and taking half of the profit,
for an earnings of about $150 million over 30 years.
Other council members expressed concern that whoever
leased the parking would hike rates, something Councilman Cecil Thomas
“The market would dictate the rates that are charged,” he said.
Dohoney said a combination of cuts, savings, revenue,
projected growth and one-time funding sources helped eliminate the $34
million deficit. He said a budget containing only cuts would result in the layoff of 344 city workers.
A slide show provided by the city showed that 802 positions had been cut since 2000.Dohoney advocated eliminating the property tax rollback promised as part of the deal to build two new sports stadiums in 1996. He said it would bring in about $9 million a year. However council has had little appetite to allow any increase in taxes as the city recovers from the Great Recession. Property taxes make up about 6 percent of the budget fund used to pay most of the city's operating expenses.
The cuts proposed in the 2013 budget include eliminating
support for public access company Media Bridges, the Downtown and
Neighborhood Gateways Program, Juvenile Firesetter Program and Arts
It would also eliminate the Cincinnati Police Department’s Mounted Patrol, which covers downtown on horseback. Dohoney said that would allow Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig to redeploy those nine officers elsewhere. Dohoney said Craig had asked for a new recruit class of
50, but Dohoney requested 30. He said the additional nine from the horse
patrol would bring that closer to 40.
Dohoney said he was also allowing 10 additional recruits
to cover patrols of University Hospital, which is no longer going to use
University of Cincinnati police starting Jan. 1.
He said the police department would also look for ways to
save money by increasing the involvement of civilian members who could
do things like take reports of non-injury car accidents.
Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan asked if the budgeteers had
considered restructuring the police force to save money. She has long
been a proponent of “right-sizing” the police and fire forces, saying
staffing levels remain at a high while the city’s population is
The proposed budget also includes investments in business
groups that promote economic development, like the Port Authority,
Greater Cincinnati Partnership, Film Commission and African American
Chamber of Commerce.
Councilman Chris Seelbach praised Dohoney and his budget
team, saying he saw Cincinnati as being better off than it had been six
years ago. But he also said he’d like to see the administration focus on
people who are barely getting by instead of businesses and developers.
“There is a focus on helping people make more money that
are already making a lot of money,” Seelbach said. “Helping people that
aren’t paying a lot of taxes still pay very little.”Cincinnatians can weigh in on the budget in a public hearing Thursday evening at 6 p.m.