by German Lopez
Streetcar cancellation costs outlined, Ohio joblessness spikes, state to repay overpaid taxes
Streetcar Project Executive John Deatrick yesterday revealed that the city might only keep $7.5-$24.5 million if it cancels the $132.8 million streetcar project,
after accounting for $32.8 million in sunk costs through November, a
potential range of $30.6-$47.6 million in close-out costs and $44.9
million in lost federal grant money. But Mayor-elect John Cranley flatly
denied the numbers because he claims the current city administration
“is clearly biased toward the project and intent on defying the will of
the voters.” Meanwhile, at least two of the potential swing votes —
incoming council members David Mann and Kevin Flynn — showed skepticism
toward the estimates, although Mann said, “If they do hold up, that’s
fairly persuasive.” Three elected council members already support the
streetcar project, so only two of the three potential swing votes would
need to vote in favor of it to keep it going.
Ohio’s unemployment rate rose to 7.5 percent in October, up from 6.9 percent a year before. The state added only 27,200 jobs, which wasn’t enough to make up for the 31,000 newly unemployed throughout the past year. The numbers
paint a grim picture for a state economy that was once perceived as one of the
strongest coming out of the Great Recession. In comparison, the U.S.
unemployment rate actually decreased to 7.3 percent from 7.9 percent
between October 2012 and October 2013. (This paragraph was updated with the nonfarm numbers.)
The Ohio Department of Taxation (ODT) will repay $30 million plus interest to businesses
that overpaid taxes throughout the past three years. The announcement
came after Ohio Inspector General Randall Meyer found ODT had illegally
withheld $294 million in overpayments over the years. Meyer’s findings
were made through what was initially a probe into alleged theft at ODT.
Outgoing Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan could request an automatic recount
because she came tenth out of the nine elected council members, right
after Councilwoman-elect Amy Murray, by only 859 votes. But Quinlivan
and Hamilton County Board of Elections Chairman Tim Burke agreed the
recount would be a long-shot. Still, Quinlivan noted that a flip in the
count could be a big deal because she supports the streetcar project and
Murray opposes it.
Cincinnati Public Schools are trying to expand their recycling efforts.
Here is an interactive infographic of meat production in 2050.
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by German Lopez
Hired organizations did not properly comply with federal stimulus requirements
Ohio’s inspector general released a report today
criticizing the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) for
improperly reimbursing federal stimulus funds to hired organizations
that did not follow rules.
In a statement, Inspector General Randall Meyer’s office
said ODJFS “failed to adequately oversee federal grant funds applied to
the Constructing Futures jobs training initiative for Central Ohio.”
The report released by Meyer’s office today, which focused
on stimulus programs in central Ohio, outlined a few instances of ODJFS
failing to oversee proper standards. In total, the department, which was
put in charge of carrying out job training funds in Ohio from the
stimulus package President Barack Obama signed into law in 2009, wrongly
reimbursed companies it hired for $51,700.81.
In central Ohio, ODJFS hired two organizations to carry
out the job training program, or Workforce Investment Act: Associated
Builders and Contractors, Inc. (ABC) and Construction Trades Networks
(CTN). At ABC, the inspector general found limited problems with faulty
reimbursements involving a newspaper subscription, travel and mileage
totaling less than $100. The money was not accounted for as a
questionable cost since it was so small.
However, at CTN, the faulty reimbursements piled up. The
organization was reimbursed $560.61 for phone calls made prior to
being hired as part of the federal grant. It was also reimbursed
$1,613.62 for its invoices, even though documentation was not
provided to link phone calls as necessary to the grant program.
Under the federal stimulus rules, CTN was required to
provide 25 percent of its own funds for the program. CTN planned on
using $91,800 of in-kind funds — payment that isn’t cash — by paying for
trainee wages. The organization paid $60,927.70 by the end of the grant
period, and the organization was reimbursed for $49,526.64 by ODJFS, even though
the charges were supposed to be carried by CTN. The inspector general requested CTN give the money back to ODJFS.
When the inspector general contacted the organization to
explain the findings, CTN attributed the requests for faulty
reimbursements to confusion caused by multiple administrative changes at
“In addition, monitoring visits by ODJFS were not
conducted until after the grant period expired, even though the
partnerships were told the visits would occur as grant activities were
underway,” the report said.
Meyer’s office concluded ODJFS should review the
questioned costs, work to keep consistent guidelines through
administrative changes and monitor grant funds during the
The full inspector general report can be found here.
A report was released for northwestern Ohio was released
on May 10, and it also found wrongdoing. It can be found here. A report
for stimulus programs in southwestern Ohio will be released later.ODJFS could not be immediately provide comment on the report. This story will be updated if comments become available.UPDATE (3:28 P.M.): Benjamin Johnson, spokesperson for ODJFS, provided a comment shortly after this story was published.“As the report mentions, these were expenditures by local entities, not by the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services,” he says. “We appreciate the inspector general bringing this to our attention, and we'll work to resolve the matter.”