WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 

Top Stories of 2013

The people, budgets and controversies CityBeat covered while writing about the streetcar all year

0 Comments · Thursday, December 26, 2013
Just like it was a big year for Cincinnati and Ohio, it was a big year for the CityBeat news team.   

Poor Priorities

City Hall continues underfunding human services despite historical goals and pressing needs

0 Comments · Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Since 2004, the city has failed to meet its own goals for human services funding, leaving some agencies behind.   

Building Preservation Group Scrutinizes Transitional House

1 Comment · Wednesday, October 16, 2013
A Ludlow, Ky., branch of a local entity operating transitional housing facilities for recovering addicts across the Greater Cincinnati area is facing criticism from the Ludlow Historic Society.   
by German Lopez 09.19.2013
Posted In: News, Welfare at 03:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
hamilton county department of job and family services

Hamilton County Reprimanded in Latest State Audit

Department of Job and Family Services cited for multiple errors

The Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services (HCDJFS) was reprimanded in a state audit released Thursday that uncovered inadequate protocols and failures to correct previous audits’ findings. But HCDJFS spokesperson Brian Gregg says a lot of the audit’s findings could be outdated because they’re based on data from 2011. “We’re working on information that is two years old but was just presented to us,” he says. HCDJFS, which handles the county’s social services and welfare programs, was criticized for not keeping proper documentation and failing to conduct various checks required to gauge whether federal, state and local funds should be used for child support services. Gregg blames the inadequacies on a bout of temporary chaos caused by funding reductions and layoffs, which he pinned on state government cuts from 2008 that cost HCDJFS roughly half its budget. Since then, he says the county has retrained staff to manage the agency’s smaller size. Gregg also noted that the sampling size for the findings — 25 — was fairly low. “You can get a bad batch,” he says. “I don’t want this to be indicative of the program.” Instead, Gregg points to county-by-county data for child support that put Hamilton County above all other metropolitan counties in Ohio for cost effectiveness. The data, produced by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services in 2012, found Hamilton County is getting $28.52 in child support for every $1 it pays staff to collect support. In comparison, Cuyahoga County’s ratio was $8.56-to-$1 and Franklin County’s was $11.62-to-$1. “We’re probably the best and most efficient metropolitan county in the state when it comes to child support collection,” Gregg says. The audit also found HCDJFS paid more than $330,000 in excess rent in 2011, more than $24,000 of which was allocated to local funds while the rest was charged to state and federal funds. A 2010 state audit found similar excess rent charges. The agency told the state auditor’s office it will continue working with the county budget office and prosecutor to correct the lease agreement that led to the excess rent. “That’s a result of a way the state interpreted a federal law in 2010,” Gregg says. “We’ve had that lease from ’93 on. There was a change in 2010, and we’re now working with the county to get in compliance.” HCDJFS employees were also found to be inadequately tracking their working hours, which the agency says it’s now correcting by setting up a new computer system. The new findings were heaped on top of old errors found in previous state audits, including several misused funds. Many of the old errors remain uncorrected. But none of the new findings indicated that HCDJFS has to refund money to other government agencies. “We feel good that there were no findings for recovery. We don’t owe anything. These few things that they did find are managerial, and we’ll work them out,” Gregg says. The same didn’t apply to one case of overcharge — totaling $2,400 — at the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, which the Sheriff’s Office says led to an investigation and criminal charges against the property officer supervisor as well as new policies to protect payment systems in the future.
 
 
by German Lopez 08.21.2013
Posted In: News, Human services, Economy, Privatization at 09:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
poor priorities

Morning News and Stuff

Homeless shelters report rise in calls, Cincinnati loses jobs, JobsOhio controversy continues

Greater Cincinnati homeless shelters are reporting a 31 percent increase in the number of families calling for help — a sign that homelessness may be trending up. Meanwhile, City Council managed to avoid cutting funding to human services that help the homeless this year, but the local government has steadily provided less funding since 2004, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.Cincinnati lost 4,000 jobs from June to July, but it gained 14,000 between July 2012 and July this year, far above the 3,000 necessary to keep up with annual population growth, according to data released yesterday by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate was at 7.1 percent in July, down from 7.3 percent in June and 7.4 percent in July 2012. The labor force shrunk in comparison to the previous month and year, which means the unemployment rate fell partly because many people stopped looking for jobs. In comparison, Ohio’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate was 7.2 percent in July and the U.S. rate was 7.4 percent. More JobsOhio controversy: The state panel that approves tax credits recommended by the privatized development agency has never said no, according to The Columbus Dispatch. Gov. John Kasich and Republicans say the Ohio Tax Credit Authority is supposed to be an independent watchdog on JobsOhio, but both JobsOhio and the Ohio Tax Credit Authority have their boards appointed by the governor. Democrats have been highly critical of JobsOhio for its lack of transparency and privatized nature, but Republicans say both are good traits for an agency that needs to move fast to land job-creating development deals. Meanwhile, two Democrats in the Ohio House are pushing a ban on Ohio officials, including the governor, receiving outside pay. The proposal is largely in response to JobsOhio recommending $619,000 in tax credits in 2012 and 2013 to Worthington Industries, a company that paid Kasich through 2012 for his time on its board. The Ohio Ethics Commission refused to investigate the potential conflict of interest because it said Kasich made a clean break from Worthington when he was elected. Hamilton County taxpayers might have to put up $10 million to give the Cincinnati Bengals a high-definition scoreboard, thanks to the team’s lease with the county. Economists generally see stadiums as one of the most over-hyped, unsuccessful urban investments, according to The Nation. No City Council member supports the tea party-backed pension amendment that would privatize Cincinnati’s pension system so future city workers, excluding cops and firefighters, contribute to and manage individual 401k-style accounts. Currently, Cincinnati pools pension funds and manages the investments through an independent board. City officials and unions claim the measure will cost the city more than the current system and hurt retirement gains for city employees. But tea party groups say the amendment is necessary to address Cincinnati’s growing pension costs, including an $862 million unfunded liability. CityBeat wrote about the amendment and the groups that could be behind it in further detail here. Ohio is partnering up with the Jason Foundation to provide training and information to teachers, coaches, other school personnel, parents and students about suicide, the second leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds after car accidents. The measure aims to curb down suicide rates. Hamilton County and Cincinnati are pursuing joint funding of technology upgrades for 911 services, and the two local governments are moving permitting services to one location, according to a statement from Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann’s office. Hartmann has long pursued more city-county collaboration so both can run more efficiently and bring down costs. The Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati is now called Interact for Health. The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) yesterday reported 2013’s first case of West Nile Virus. A 72-year-old woman in Cuyahoga County is apparently being hospitalized for the disease. ODH Director Ted Wymyslo said in a statement that, while Ohio has dealt with West Nile Virus since 2002, cases have dropped in the past year. The University of Cincinnati is set to break another record for enrollment this fall. Dunnhumby USA yesterday unveiled the design for its downtown headquarters. A new electric car can fold itself in half when parking.
 
 

City to Reduce Some Budget Cuts

0 Comments · Wednesday, July 31, 2013
A motion proposed by a majority of City Council on July 30 would use leftover revenue from the previous budget year to undo cuts to various programs, including human services, parks and the Health Department.   
by German Lopez 07.31.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Development, Stadiums at 08:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cover-kasich-2

Morning News and Stuff

More JobsOhio controversy, Council undoing cuts, stadium improvements to cost millions

Six of nine JobsOhio board members have direct financial ties to companies that have received tax credits and other help from the agency and state government, an investigation from Dayton Daily News discovered. The members are connected in various ways: Some are employed by the companies, others sit on their boards and a few just own stocks. The conflicts of interest that could undermine JobsOhio’s goals. The privatized development agency was established by Gov. John Kasich and Republican legislators to replace the Ohio Department of Development. Republicans claim JobsOhio’s privatized nature allows it to move at “the speed of business” when luring companies to the state. But Democrats argue that the agency is unaccountable and draining state funds without any clear indication of where the money is going. Meanwhile, JobsOhio gave financial aid to a company that simply shifted jobs from one city to another. The agency gave Timbertech a 50-percent credit to create 85 jobs in Wilmington, Ohio. The company is abiding, but it’s simultaneously closing down a Columbus factory at the loss of 58 jobs. Cincinnati will end up not laying off any city employees after City Council undoes $4 million in budget cuts with leftover revenue from the previous budget year. The restorations will reverse some or all of this year’s cuts to human services, parks, the Health Department and other city programs. Council members called the higher-than-projected revenue evidence that Cincinnati’s economic strategy is working. But the reversals also raise questions about the city administration’s original claims: When the 2014 budget was first being considered, Mayor Mark Mallory and his administration said the city would have to lay off 344 workers, including many cops and firefighters, to balance the budget without the parking lease. But without any of the parking money allocated, the city managed to avert all layoffs and undo a bulk of cuts, largely by using better-than-expected revenues from the past budget year. Fixing up the Great American Ball Park for the All-Star Game could cost county taxpayers $5 million. The All-Star costs are just one part of the $27 million taxpayers will pay to improve stadiums in Hamilton County over the next five years. Stadiums are often touted by local officials as a way to boost the economy, but economists and urban planners have found that publicly funded sports arenas don’t lead to sizable economic growth. Ohio’s job growth is so slow that it will take nearly five years to recover all the jobs lost during the Great Recession. Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is leading fundraising for this year’s Council campaigns. The Cincinnati USA Chamber of Commerce is hosting two mayoral debates. This year’s candidates are Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, ex-Councilman John Cranley, Jim Berns and Sandra “Queen” Noble. Qualls and Cranley are considered the two frontrunners. The Cincinnati Art Museum is calling on community contributions to finish the second half of its renovations. The museum has raised $2.7 million out of the $6 million it needs. Red Squirrel, a local restaurant chain, is closing down three of five eateries. Internet-based psychotherapy apparently works.
 
 
by German Lopez 05.30.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, City Council at 02:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

City Budget Slashes Several Programs, Saves Public Safety Jobs

Cuts hit parks, human services, arts, outside agencies and other city programs

City Council approved an operating budget Thursday that raises taxes and cuts several city services in fiscal year 2014, but the plan avoids laying off cops and firefighters.Democratic council members Roxanne Qualls, Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson, Pam Thomas and Wendell Young supported the budget, and Democrats P.G. Sittenfeld and Laure Quinlivan, independent Chris Smitherman and Republican Charlie Winburn voted in opposition.As a result of the budget, 67 city employees will lose their jobs.Human services funding, which goes toward programs that aid the city's homeless and poor, is hit particularly hard with a cut of $515,000 in the final budget plan. The reduced funding leaves about $1.1 million for human services agencies.Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, says the latest cuts add to what's been a decade of cuts for human services funding. Originally, human services funding made up about 1.5 percent of the city's operating budget. With the latest changes, human services funding makes up about 0.3 percent of the budget."The additional cuts are deep and will negatively affect many lives now and in the future," Spring says. "It's important City Council work to reduce these cuts and citizens support that in ensuing months."The budget also cuts parks funding by $1 million — about $200,000 lower than originally proposed by City Manager Milton Dohoney.The budget further trims several city services, including the city's health department, law department and recreation department. Arts funding and subsidies for "heritage" events, such as parades, are completely eliminated. Funding for several outside agencies is also being reduced or eliminated: the Port Authority, the African-American Chamber of Commerce, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Center for Closing the Health Gap, the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance and the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Film Commission.The budget is partly balanced with higher revenues. The property tax is being hiked from 4.6 mills to 5.7 mills in fiscal year 2014, or about $94 for every $100,000 in property value. Water rates will also increase by 5.5 percent starting in 2014.The budget also invokes fees for several city services: 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 events.At a council meeting Thursday, Quinlivan, who voted against the budget, criticized other council members for not pursuing changes that would structurally balance the budget."I don't believe anybody's going to really address this problem," she said.Quinlivan has long been an advocate for "rightsizing" the city's police and fire departments, which she says have scaled "out of control."Seelbach defended the plan, claiming it will keep the city's books balanced while the city government waits for higher revenues from a growing local economy.Still, the city has not passed a structurally balanced budget since 2001, which critics like Quinlivan say is irresponsible.The public safety layoffs were avoided despite months of threats from city officials that cops and firefighters would have to be laid off if the city didn't semi-privatize its parking assets for $92 million upfront and annual payments afterward. That plan is now held up in court, and public safety layoffs were avoided anyway. But the layoffs were avoided with steeper cuts in other areas of the budget, including reduced funding for outside agencies and a requirement of 10 furlough days for some city employees and council members. The changes also increased estimates for incoming revenues with $1 million that is supposed to be paid back to the city's tax increment financing fund.Multiple council members blamed the budget problems on the state government, which has cut local government funding by about 50 percent during Gov. John Kasich's time in office ("Enemy of the State," issue of March 20). For Cincinnati, the cuts resulted in $21 million less for fiscal year 2014, or 60 percent of the $35 million budget gap originally estimated for the year.
 
 

0|1
 
Close
Close
Close