Home - Blogs - Staff Blogs - Latest Blogs
Latest Blogs
by Andy Brownfield 12.03.2012
milton dohoney

Budget Hearing Raises Questions About Parking Privatization

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 dismissed.

“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 Grants.

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 shrinking.

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.

by German Lopez 12.03.2012
Posted In: News, Budget, County Commission, Stadiums at 01:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
greg hartmann

Hartmann Considers Reducing Property Tax Rollback

Board president still unsure of how he'll vote; Portune's sales tax increase still on the table

The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners held a public meeting today to discuss options for balancing the stadium fund. Commissioner Todd Portune, the lone Democrat on the board, on Nov. 28 proposed a 0.25-percent sales tax hike. At the meeting, Board President Greg Hartmann, a Republican, suggested reducing the property tax rollback by 50 percent for two years, but he said he was unsure which way he would vote.

Portune also gave ideas for possible adjustments to his sales tax proposal. He said commissioners could “sunset” the sales tax hike, essentially putting an expiration date on the tax increase. He also would like to see the sales tax hike reviewed on a regular basis to ensure taxpayers aren't being burdened longer than necessary. The idea behind possible time limits for both proposals is new revenues, perhaps from an improving economy or Cincinnati's new casino, could make changes unnecessary in the long term.

If anything came from the meeting, it’s that none of the commissioners like the position they’re in. Commissioner Chris Monzel, a Republican, said he had been placed “between a rock and a hard place.” Hartmann echoed Monzel, saying it was an “unenviable position.” Despite being the one to propose the hike, Portune said, “We’re left with two options that none of us like at all.”

Commissioners mostly repeated previous arguments during most of the meeting. Hartmann continued saying he was unsure how he would vote, but he said the two options presented are the only options left. He called Portune's plan “bold.

Portune claimed the sales tax hike was more equitable because it spreads out the tax burden to anyone who spends money in Hamilton County, including visitors from around the Tristate area. In contrast, eliminating or reducing the property tax rollback would place the burden of the stadium fund exclusively on residential property owners in Hamilton County.

The property tax rebate and sales taxes are both regressive, meaning they favor the wealthy more than the poor. In simple terms, as income goes down, spending on goods and services take bigger bites out of a person’s income. A sales tax makes that disproportionate burden even larger.

One analysis from The Cincinnati Enquirer found the wealthy made more money from the property tax rebate than they were taxed by the half-cent sales tax raise that was originally meant to support the stadium fund. For a previous story covering the stadium fund, Neil DeMause, a journalist who chronicled his 15-year investigation of stadium deals in his book Field of Schemes, told CityBeat the stadium fund’s problems stem from the county government making a “terrible deal” with the Reds and Bengals.

Monzel said he will continue to try to find alternatives to raising taxes. On Nov. 28, Monzel told CityBeat he would rather keep the stadium fund balanced for one year with short-term cuts, including a cut on further investments in The Banks development, before raising taxes. In the long term, Monzel says commissioners could see if revenue from the new Horseshoe Casino and a possible deal involving the University of Cincinnati using Paul Brown Stadium would be enough to sustain the stadium fund.

The commissioners will vote on the proposals on Dec. 5.

by German Lopez 12.03.2012
Posted In: Budget, Economy, News, Fracking, Environment, Energy at 10:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Ohio's fracking boom disappoints, war on babies declared, Cincinnati's economic triumph

Ohio’s fracking boom might not be living up to the hype. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources originally estimated that 250 fracking wells would be built by the end of the year, but only 165 have been completed and 22 are currently being built. The disappointing results are being blamed on low natural gas prices and a backlog in work needed to connect wells to customers. Maybe the state’s claim had as much basis as Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s claim that the state’s fracking boom would be worth $1 trillion.

By killing the heartbeat bill and a bill that defunds Planned Parenthood, Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus, a Republican, apparently declared a war on babies, according to anti-abortion groups. Niehaus is term-limited, so he will not be in the Ohio Senate in the next session, which begins next year. Incoming senate president Keith Faber already said the heartbeat bill could come up to vote in the next Senate session. CityBeat previously wrote about Ohio Republicans’ renewed anti-abortion agenda.

Between 2011 and 2012, Cincinnati had the 12th best economic performance in the United States, according to a Brookings Institute study. Out of the 76 metropolitan areas looked at, only Dallas; Knoxville, Tenn.; and Pittsburgh have recovered from the recession, and 20 areas lost more ground throughout the year.

Media Bridges, Cincinnati’s public access media outlet, is the latest victim of the 2013 budget proposal from City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. The budget plan suggests slashing $300,000 from the organization’s funding. When coupled with state funding cuts, Media Bridges is losing $498,000 in funding, or 85 percent of its budget. Tom Bishop, executive director of Media Bridges, compared the cuts to a “meteor” hitting Media Bridges’ budget. The city says cuts were suggested in part due to public feedback.

The Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition is pushing the public to speak out against $610,770 in cuts to human services funding in Dohoney’s proposed budget. Mayor Mark Mallory and City Council have already agreed to continue 2013 funding at 2012 levels, but homeless advocates want to make sure the funding, which largely helps the homeless and low-income families, remains. The group is calling for supporters to attend City Council meetings on Dec. 5 at 1:15 p.m. at City Hall, Dec. 6 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall and Dec. 10 at 5:30 p.m. at the Corryville Recreation Center.

It’s commonly said Cincinnati is Republican territory, but after the latest elections, that’s looking more and more false.

The University of Cincinnati is stepping up safety efforts around campus. The university held a summit to gather public feedback on possible improvements in light of recent incidents in and around campus. Beginning in January, UC will increase patrols by 30 percent.

Crime around Columbus’ Hollywood Casino has ticked up. Could Cincinnati face a similar fate when the Horseshoe Casino is up and running? A Washington Post analysis found casinos bring in jobs, but also bankruptcy, crime and even suicide.

Results equal funding. That’s the approach Gov. Kasich is taking to funding higher education, but Inside Higher Ed says the approach is part of “an emerging Republican approach to higher education policy, built largely around cost-cutting.” Kasich’s approach is meant to encourage better results by providing higher funds to schools with higher graduation rates, but schools with funding problems and lower graduation rates could have their problems exacerbated.

Josh Mandel, state treasurer and former Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, insists his big loss in November does not make him a political has-been. Mandel will be pursuing a second term at the Ohio treasurer’s office in 2014. Mandel lost the Senate race despite getting massive amounts of funding from third parties — Democrats estimate $40 million — to support his campaign.

The auto industry is still chugging along with impressive numbers from November.

Gas prices moved down in Ohio this week.

One geneticist says people are getting dumber, but he doesn’t seem to have much to back his claims up.

by German Lopez 11.30.2012
Posted In: Budget, News, Media at 03:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)
milton dohoney

City Slashing Media Bridges Funding

Massive cuts endanger local public access media

Mitt Romney was criticized for wanting to kill Big Bird due to his proposed cuts to publicly funded media, and now City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. could face similar criticism. In his 2013 budget proposal, Dohoney suggested eliminating $300,000 in support to Media Bridges, an organization that provides public access TV and radio stations in Cincinnati.

Tom Bishop, executive director of Media Bridges, called the cuts a “meteor” to his organization’s budget. He described dire circumstances in which Ohio originally cut funding to Media Bridges in June 2011, leaving the organization with $198,000 from remaining money in the state fund and $300,000 from Cincinnati’s general fund. The state fund was provided by Time Warner Cable, and lobbying from the cable company is what eventually led to the fund’s elimination. The end of the Time Warner fund cut Media Bridges’ budget by one-third, forcing the organization to change facilities to make ends meet with less space.

With the city manager proposing to cut the citys $300,000 in funding, Media Bridges is essentially losing $498,000 in 2013. Bishop says that’s about 85 percent of the organization’s budget — a financial gap that would be practically impossible to overcome. “If it’s a complete cut, we’re looking at liquidation,” says Bishop.

When it was notified of the changes a few months ago, Media Bridges gave an alternative plan to the mayor’s office that keeps $300,000 in funding every year after a six-month transition period. But even that plan isn’t ideal, according to Bishop. It would force Media Bridges to cut four staff members, become more dependent on automation and charge $200 a year for memberships with a sliding scale for low-income members.

Media Bridges will be reaching out to the public, mayor and council members in the coming weeks to draw support in fighting the cuts.

At the government meetings, Bishop will make the plea that public access outlets are important for low-income families. He says it’s true that the Internet and cable television have expanded media options for the public, but, according to the 2010 Greater Cincinnati Survey, more than 40 percent of people in Cincinnati don’t have access to broadband. That’s a large amount of the population that will be left without a way to easily speak out in media if Media Bridges funding is dissolved.

In a world of saturated media, Bishop rhetorically asked why four TV channels that do a public service would need to be targeted: “Does it seem so ridiculous that the people should have a tiny bit of that bandwidth so that they can communicate with the community, share cultural events, share what’s going on in the community and participate politically?”

He added the organization also provides educational access, which allows institutions like the University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati Public Schools and various private schools to reach out to the community.

Media Bridges also sees the cuts as a bit unfair relative to other budget items. Bishop acknowledges “fiscal times are hard,” but he pointed out CitiCable, which broadcasts City Council meetings and other educational services, is getting more than $750,000 in the proposed budget to run one TV channel, while Media Bridges isn't getting $300,000 to run four TV channels and a radio station. He praised CitiCable — “Those guys do a great job over there; they provide a great service” — but he also says the disproportionate cuts are “just not right.”

The cuts to Media Bridges are some of many adjustments in the budget proposal by Dohoney. To balance Cincinnatis estimated $34 million deficit, Dohoney suggested pursuing privatizing parking services and other cuts, including the elimination of the Cincinnati Police Department’s mounted patrol unit and a $610,770 reduction to human services funding.

Update (Nov. 30, 3:45 p.m.): Meg Olberding, spokesperson for the city manager's office, called back CityBeat after this story was published. She explained Media Bridges was a target for cuts for two reasons: The program was ranked low in importance in public feedback gathered during the priority-driven budget process, and Media Bridges isn't seen as a core city service.

Olberding also said that while some funding does flow through the city to CitiCable, that money has always come from franchise fees from Cincinnati Bell and Time Warner. In the case of Media Bridges, the city was not funding the program until it picked up the tab in 2011. Until that point, Media Bridges was funded through the now-gone Time Warner fund. Only after funding was lost did the city government provide a one-year reprieve” in the general fund to keep Media Bridges afloat, according to Olberding.

by German Lopez 11.30.2012
Posted In: Budget, News, Women's Health, Education at 09:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
Mitt Romney

Morning News and Stuff

Romney loss stops heartbeat bill, tougher report cards pass House, S&P criticizes Cincinnati

Mitt Romney’s big loss is finally getting to Ohio Republicans. Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus made procedural moves to block the heartbeat bill from a vote before the end of the lame-duck session. Niehaus, a Republican, said his decision was largely influenced by Romney’s loss on Nov. 6. When the heartbeat bill was originally proposed, it was labeled the most radical anti-abortion bill in the country. It banned abortion as soon as a heartbeat was detected, which can happen six weeks into pregnancy. It made no exceptions for rape, incest or the health of the mother. CityBeat recently wrote about the GOP's renewed anti-abortion agenda, but if Republicans begin taking lessons from the most recent election, the renewed agenda will never come to light.

The Ohio House of Representatives approved Cincinnati’s tougher school report card standards. An early simulation of the proposed system in May showed Cincinnati Public Schools would drop from the second-best rating of “Effective” under the current system to a D-, with 23 schools flunking and Walnut Hills High School retaining its top mark with an A. The bill will also impose more regulations and oversight on charter schools. As part of the overall reform, the state is replacing its standardized tests, but some Democrats are worried the new tests and system will be too tough on schools.

Standard & Poor's is not optimistic about Cincinnati. The firm gave the city’s debt rating a negative outlook due to structural budget problems. City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. says ratings firms are looking for spending cuts or revenue growth from Cincinnati to achieve structurally balanced budgets in the next two years, but Dohoney’s most recent budget proposal largely balances the deficit with a one-time source from privatizing parking services. On the other hand, pursuing austerity during a weak economic recovery is a bad idea.

The Cincinnati Fire Department says it doesn’t have enough personnel to man fire trucks. The problem is only getting worse as retirements increase, according to Fire Chief Richard Braun.

The University of Cincinnati’s campus was ranked among the most dangerous in the country.

Ohio has some of the lowest graduation rates in the Midwest. Low-income, black and Hispanic students are all much less likely to graduate than their wealthier and white peers.

Gov. John Kasich met with college and university leaders today to discuss higher education. After the meeting, Kasich and the leaders suggested attaching state funding to graduation rates, among other reforms.

It looks like Ohio’s financial institutions tax bill will make it through the Ohio Senate without major changes. The bill was already passed by the Ohio House. A memo from nonprofit research organization Policy Matters Ohio recommended making changes so the bill cuts tax loopholes without cutting rates on big banks. Zach Schiller, research director from Policy Matters, said in the memo, “Big banks aren’t better banks, as their role in the recent financial crisis made clear. It is questionable policy for the state to favor them with lower rates.”

It’s official: Cincinnati is “cougar capital of Ohio.”

Heart-lifting story of the day: A New York City cop helped a homeless person by buying him a pair of boots.

Has the modern art world lost touch with its audience?

NASA confirmed the presence of ice water on Mercury.

by German Lopez 11.29.2012
Posted In: News, Budget, Privatization, LGBT Issues at 09:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Port Authority could buy parking assets, county may raise sales tax, Cincinnati's LGBT score

The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority is making a move to buy up the city’s parking services. Cincinnati is pursuing parking privatization as a way of balancing the budget. If it accepts the Port Authority’s deal, the city will get $40 million upfront, and $21 million of that will be used to help plug the $34 million deficit in the 2013 budget. Port Authority also promised 50 percent of future profits. The Port Authority proposal is only one of nine Cincinnati’s government has received since it announced its plan. CityBeat criticized the city’s budget plan in this week’s commentary.

The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners might raise the sales tax instead of doing away with the property tax rebate to stabilize the stadium fund. Democratic Commissioner Todd Portune suggested the idea, and Board President Greg Hartmann says it might be the only solution. Republican Chris Monzel is against it. Sales taxes are notoriously regressive, while the property tax rebate disproportionately favors the wealthy. Portune claims the 0.25-percent sales tax hike would be more spread out than a property tax rollback, essentially impacting low-income families less than the alternative. CityBeat previously covered the stadium fund and its problems here.

While Cincinnati has made great strides in LGBT rights in the past year, it still has ways to go. The Municipal Equality Index from the Human Rights Campaign scored Cincinnati a 77 out of 100 on city services, laws and policies and how they affect LGBT individuals. Cleveland tied with Cincinnati, and Columbus beat out both with an 83. It's clear Ohio is making progress on same-sex issues, but will Ohioans approve same-sex marriage in 2013?

Some conservatives just don’t know when to quit. Even though Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus pronounced the heartbeat bill dead, Janet Porter, president of the anti-abortion Faith2Action, wants to force a vote in the Ohio legislature. CityBeat previously wrote about Republicans’ renewed anti-abortion agenda.

Some people are not liking the idea of new fracking waste wells. About 100 protesters in Athens were escorted out of an information session from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for loudly disputing a proposal to build more waste wells. Fracking, which is also called hydraulic fracturing, is a drilling technique that pumps water underground to draw out oil and gas. Waste wells are used to dispose of the excess water.

One reason Ohio's online schools are so costly is advertising. CityBeat previously looked into online schools, their costs and their problems.

Divorce in Ohio might soon get easier to finalize, as long as it’s mutual and civil.

A new bill would give Ohio schools more flexibility in making up snow days and other sudden disruptions in the school year. The bill changes school year requirements from day measurements to hour measurements.

A new study found 60 percent of youth with HIV don’t know they have the deadly disease. CityBeat covered a new University of Cincinnati push meant to clamp down on rising HIV rates among youth in this week’s news story.

Tech jobs are seeing a boom due to Obamacare, according to Bloomberg.

Scientists have discovered a quasar that glows brighter than our entire galaxy.

They’ve also invented a chocolate that doesn’t melt at 104 degrees.

by German Lopez 11.28.2012
Posted In: News, Budget, County Commission, Stadiums at 05:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Portune Suggests Sales Tax Hike

Quarter cent increase to stabilize stadium fund, preserve property tax rebate

County Commissioner Todd Portune is proposing a 0.25 percent sales tax hike to stabilize the stadium fund and preserve the property tax rebate promised to voters in 1996. The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners will have to approve the hike before it becomes law. It would raise the county sales tax from 6.5 percent to 6.75 percent.

Portune, the lone Democrat on the three-man board, says the county got to this point after years of problems with the stadium fund’s solvency culminated into one of two options: either the sales tax goes up or the property tax rebate is rolled back. He claims the two options are the only way to keep the stadium fund stable. 

Portune says the 0.25-percent increase on the sales tax will hurt low-income families less than rolling back the property tax rebate. He reasoned the impact of the property tax rollback would focus on Hamilton County residents, including low-income families, while any hike in the sales tax is spread out on anyone who spends money in Hamilton County, including visitors from around the Tristate area. He also pointed out that essentials like food and medicine are exempt from the sales tax, which gives some relief to anyone trying to make ends meet.

On support from other commissioners, Portune says Board President Greg Hartmann agreed either the rebate has to go or the sales tax has to go up, but Hartmann could not be reached by CityBeat for further comment. This story will be updated if comments become available.

Update (Nov. 29, 4:25 p.m.): Hartmann called CityBeat after this story was published. He says he has not made a final decision, but he echoed Portune's comments by saying the reality of the situation” demands choosing between a sales tax hike or property tax rollback. If the commissioners take the latter option, Hartmann says only a partial rollback will be necessary to draw enough funds. He also cautioned that any one-time sales and spending cuts will not be enough to stabilize the stadium fund in the long term.

Commissioner Chris Monzel says he would rather keep the stadium fund balanced for one year with short-term cuts, including a cut on further investments in The Banks development before raising taxes. After the year is up, Monzel says commissioners could see if revenue from the new Horseshoe Casino and a possible deal involving the University of Cincinnati using Paul Brown Stadium would be enough to sustain the stadium fund in the long term.

The property tax rebate and sales taxes are both generally considered regressive, meaning they favor the wealthy more than the poor. In simple terms, as income goes down, spending on goods and services take bigger bites out of a person’s income. A sales tax makes that disproportionate burden even larger.

One analysis from The Cincinnati Enquirer found the wealthy actually made more money from the property tax rebate than they were taxed by the half-cent sales tax raise that was initially meant to support the stadium fund.

For a previous story covering the stadium fund, Neil DeMause told CityBeat the stadium fund’s problems stem from the county government making a “terrible deal” with the Reds and Bengals. DeMause is a journalist who has chronicled his 15-year investigation of stadium deals in his book “Field of Schemes.”

by German Lopez 11.27.2012
Posted In: Budget, Republicans, Democrats, News, State Legislature at 09:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Ohio Republican supermajority hangs on 14 votes, city unveils budget, county passes budget

In the Ohio House of Representatives, the difference between a Republican supermajority and a normal majority is now 14 votes. That’s how many votes are splitting Republican Rep. Al Landis and Democratic challenger Josh O'Farrell. The small difference has already triggered an automatic recount and likely a series of lawsuits from Democrats over counting provisional ballots. The supermajority would allow Ohio House Republicans to pass legislation without worry of a governor’s veto and place any measure on the ballot — including personhood initiatives — without bipartisan approval.

City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. unveiled his 2013 budget proposal at a press conference yesterday. The proposal will pursue privatizing the city’s parking services to help close a $34 million deficit. The privatization plan has already faced some early criticism from Democrat P.G. Sittenfeld. The budget will also make minor cuts elsewhere. In addition to the 2013 budget, the Tentative Tax Budget proposal, which Dohoney passed to City Council and the mayor yesterday, also raises property tax rates.

Meanwhile, the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners approved the 2013 budget in a 2-1 vote. Democrat Todd Portune was outvoted by Republicans Chris Monzel and Board President Greg Hartmann. The final budget was basically Hartmann’s “austerity” proposal, barring some minor tweaks. The cuts could cost 150 or more Hamilton County jobs.

Councilman Chris Smitherman is facing a challenge for his spot as president of the Cincinnati chapter of the NAACP. The councilman’s opponent is Bob Richardson, a former officer of Laborers Local 265 and former president of the Cincinnati AFL-CIO Labor Council. Richardson’s son told WVXU, “I think we have seen the NAACP veer off its core principles and turn into a tool for Smitherman and his conservative ideas.”

In a promising sign for the local economy, Greater Cincinnati banks are taking in more money from deposits.

The 21c Museum Hotel opened yesterday. But the hotel has critics, including Josh Spring from the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition. Drawing a comparison to the situation between Western & Southern and the Anna Louise Inn, Spring said the hotel ended up displacing far too many people.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital is taking up research into how autism develops.

A new report found expanding Medicaid in Ohio could cost the state $3.1 billion. The money would be enough to insure 457,000 uninsured Ohioans. Previous studies found states that expanded Medicaid faced less health problems.

One concern with the state's “fracking” boom: water supply. Some are worried that the amount of water needed to fuel hydraulic fracturing, a drilling technique for oil and gas, will drain Ohio’s wells and reservoirs.

After some sentencing reform, Ohio’s inmate population is not decreasing as fast as some state officials would like. As the state deals with prison overpopulation and more expensive prisons, Gov. John Kasich’s administration has turned to privatization. CityBeat looked at issues surrounding private prisons and the connections between the state government and private prison companies here.

Ohio women are having fewer abortions in the state. The drop seems largely attributable to increased access to birth control. Better access to health care and improved health education are also factors.

Ever forget to take some medication? No longer. There is now a pill that can inform others when it's taken.

by German Lopez 11.26.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, Budget, News, Development at 05:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
milton dohoney

City to Pursue Privatizing Parking to Balance Budget

City Manager's 2013 budget proposal must be approved by council, mayor

City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. unveiled his 2013 budget plan at a press conference today. The proposal, which must be approved by City Council and the mayor, seeks to close a $34 million deficit while avoiding major cuts and layoffs. The proposed budget will only set the city’s course until mid-June, when the city will transition into establishing budgets based on fiscal years.

The biggest deficit plug will come from privatizing parking services, which the city manager’s office says will bring in $40 million in one-time revenue and additional revenue over 30 years as part of a long-term contract. About $21 million of the initial lump-sum payment will be used to close the 2013 budget deficit.

In the past, Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld voiced concerns about privatizing parking: “I’ll await more details, but it seems penny-wise and pound-foolish to forgo a steady revenue stream for a lump-sum payment. Cincinnati needs a structurally balanced budget and can’t keep relying on one-time sources. Places like Chicago and Indianapolis have seen their parking rates more than double following privatization — that’s a bad deal for citizens, and something we don’t need while we’re experiencing an urban renaissance.”

Another concern is whether the city’s current parking employees will be laid off if parking services are sold. Dohoney said the deal for privatization will require the winning bidder to interview all American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) workers. Full-time workers who do not join the winning bidder will be hired in other parts of the city government. “No AFSCME employee will be placed on the street if they are full-time as a result of this effort,” Dohoney claimed.

The rest of the deficit plug will come in cuts, cost shifting, savings, revenue, embedded growth and one-time sources. Among these, notable items include the elimination of the Mounted Patrol for the Cincinnati Police Department (CPD) and a $610,770 reduction in Human Services Funding. A few departments and programs, including the CPD, will face further minor cuts.

The city manager’s office claims the changes in the budget are necessary mostly due to changes at the state level. Specifically, the state government cut the Local Government Fund by 50 percent and eliminated the tangible personal property tax reimbursement and estate tax; altogether, losing these sources of revenue cost Cincinnati $22.2 million in the 2013 budget.

Facing the large deficit, Dohoney said he wanted to avoid across-the-board cuts and other major cuts to growth and investment programs: “You’re not competitive if that’s your approach.”

The budget also includes some spending increases. The Focus 52 Program will focus on redevelopment projects in Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods. If it’s successful, the new program will “grow the city’s revenue base, create new jobs and/or increase the population of the city,” according to the city manager’s office.

In other budget news, the city manager will also send out the Tentative Tax Budget proposal, which sets the millage rate for the operating property tax. That proposal seeks to raise the millage rate from 5.9 mills to 6.1 mills, which will provide an estimated $31 million in revenue, up from $23.5 million. For a $100,000 residential property, that means a tax hike of $46.

by German Lopez 11.26.2012
Posted In: Budget, County Commission, News at 02:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

County Commissioners Approve 2013 Budget

Lone Democrat dissents on $14.4 million in cuts

For the sixth year in a row, Hamilton County’s budget will be getting some cuts. The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners today approved $14.4 million in across-the-board cuts in a 2-1 vote, with Democrat Todd Portune voting no and Republicans Greg Hartmann and Chris Monzel voting yes.

The budget’s cuts will affect every county department, but they will not raise taxes. The plan will likely result in layoffs, according to the county budget office. The sheriff’s office is the least affected by cuts.

With a few revisions and tweaks, the plan is basically what Board President Hartmann originally proposed. Previously, Hartmann touted the budget plan by praising its “austerity” — a word that has lost popularity in Europe as budget cuts and tax hikes have thrown the continent into a double-dip recession. 

Portune suggested an alternative plan that made fewer cuts and instead borrowed money against delinquent taxes.

By law, the county is required to balance its budget.