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Foreign Interest

Out-of-town tea party groups take aim at Cincinnati’s struggling pension system

3 Comments · Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Local and national tea party groups are backing a city charter amendment that would semi-privatize Cincinnati’s ailing pension system.   
by German Lopez 02.21.2013
Posted In: News, City Council, Governor, Budget, Economy, Taxes at 10:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Rush to rent underway, sales tax plan criticized, city's retirement system beats projections

A new report found “renters by choice” — those who can afford to own a house but choose not to — and people returning to the market in the Great Recession’s aftermath may be driving a rush to rent in Cincinnati, reports The Cincinnati Enquirer. The report from CB Richard Ellis found the average apartment occupancy rate was 93.6 percent in 2012, underscoring the need for new apartments in Downtown and Over-the-Rhine. News of the report came just one day after City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. announced his parking plan, which will add 300 luxury apartments to Downtown. Gov. John Kasich and Ohio legislators are getting some bad feedback on the governor’s plan to broaden the sales tax, reports Gongwer. Numbers from Policy Matters Ohio found the sales tax plan would outweigh sales and income tax cuts for the lower classes, but won’t be enough to dent tax savings for the wealthiest Ohioans. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget in detail here. Not much new information came from a special City Council meeting last night that covered Cincinnati’s public retirement system, reports WVXU. The one piece of new information was that preliminary numbers show Cincinnati's Retirement System had an 11.9 percent return on its investments in 2012 — higher than the 7.5 percent that was originally projected. Mayor Mark Mallory is using his plan to lower Cincinnati’s infant mortality rate to try to win the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge. Mallory’s proposal would create an Infant Vitality Surveillance Network, which allows pregnant women to enroll in First Steps, a care program that maintains a secure database of new mothers and monitors pregnancies, according to a press release from the mayor’s office. The program could be especially helpful in Cincinnati, which has a higher infant mortality rate than the national average. The Bloomberg challenge pits mayors around the country against each other to win $5 million or one of four $1 million prizes for their programs aimed at solving urban problems and improving city life. With Mallory’s program, Cincinnati is one of 20 finalists in the competition. Fans can vote on their favorite program at The Huffington Post. A local nun may have committed voter fraud, reports WCPO. Rose Marie Hewitt, the nun in question, died Oct. 4, but the Hamilton County Board of Elections still received a ballot from her after she died. Hewitt apparently filed for an absentee ballot on Sept. 11 — less than one month before she died. In a letter to Board of Elections director Tim Burke, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters wrote there’s enough probable cause to believe criminal activity occurred. In 2012, 88,068 new entities filed to do business in the state — making the year the best ever for new state filings, according to Secretary of State Jon Husted. A new bill in the Ohio legislature that allows poll workers to help blind, disabled and illiterate voters file their ballots is getting widespread support, but another bill that makes it more difficult to get issues on the ballot is getting a stern look from Democrats, reports Gongwer. Think your landlord is bad? An Ohio landlord allegedly whipped a late-paying tenant, reports The Associated Press. The University of Cincinnati surpassed its $1 billion fundraising goal for the Proudly Cincinnati campaign, reports the Business Courier. President Barack Obama is coming back to Ohio to give the commencement speech at Ohio State University, reports the Business Courier. Donald Trump is threatening Macy’s protesters with a lawsuit because they want the Cincinnati-based retailer to cut ties with Trump, who is currently contracted as a spokesperson, reports the Business Courier. Popular Science has seven reasons coffee is good for you.
 
 
by German Lopez 01.24.2013
Posted In: Budget, Courts, News at 03:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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City Negotiating Settlement Over Pension-Funding Lawsuit

April deadline to settle with AFSCME over accusations of underfunding

The city of Cincinnati and a union representing city workers are currently negotiating an out-of-court settlement for a lawsuit involving the city's pension program. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) claimed in a 2011 lawsuit that the city government isn’t meeting funding requirements. A Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas motion filed Jan. 4 and accepted Jan. 23 gives the city and AFSCME until April to settle the case out of court. By law, Cincinnati is required to heed to the Cincinnati Retirement System (CRS) Board of Trustees when setting the percent of payroll the city must contribute to retirees. But the AFSCME lawsuit argues the city hasn’t been making contributions dictated by the board. The lawsuit, which dates back to June 2011, cites minutes from a CRS Board of Trustees meeting on July 20, 2010 to show the board accepted a report from Cavanaugh Macdonald Consulting, LLC. The report asked the city to contribute 46.22 percent of payroll to retiree benefits — 12.32 percent to retiree health benefits and 33.9 percent to other CRS benefits — during the 2011 fiscal year. Instead, the city biennial budget for 2011 and 2012 established a contribution rate of 17 percent — way below the recommended sum. The AFSCME lawsuit alleges the low contributions reflect a “longstanding pattern” from city government. It points to a 2002 report from the CRS Board of Trustees that found the city was not meeting requirements set by the board then, either. The lawsuit asks for a court mandate requiring city government to find out how much it needs to contribute, establish a mechanism for collecting the amounts required and appropriate and contribute the required amounts.City Solicitor John Curp says the debate is between long-term and short-term interests. On AFSCME’s side, the union wants to get as much from payroll contributions as possible for represented retirees, even if it means a short-term economic and budget shock for the city. On the city’s side, City Council is more interested in meeting long-term requirements for the pension fund, instead of keeping up with shifting annual numbers that could negatively impact the city economy and budget.City government’s approach attempts to balance short-term and long-term needs with a long-term goal. It means the city pension is underfunded during some years, particularly when the economy is in a bad state. But it keeps rates steady, letting the city avoid sudden funding changes that would require spending cuts or tax hikes to keep the budget balanced.By adopting a large short-term contribution rate, the city would likely hurt its budget in ways that would negatively affect city employees represented by AFSCME. If the city was forced to contribute 46.22 percent of payroll to CRS — up from 17 percent — it would probably be forced to cut spending elsewhere, which would lead to layoffs.This story was updated on Jan. 25 at 12:40 p.m. to reflect comments from City Solicitor John Curp.
 
 

Appeals Court: City May Reduce Retiree Healthcare Benefits

0 Comments · Wednesday, November 14, 2012
A state appeals court Nov. 7 rejected a lawsuit filed by city of Cincinnati retirees who claimed promised healthcare benefits were illegally reduced in 2010. Before the cuts, retirees did not have to pay-out-of-pocket expenses and deductions for prescriptions and medical care. The city shifted some costs of the pension health package to the ex-workers under an ordinance enacted to shore up its pension plan, which is still under financial stress. The appeals court said it saw no records guaranteeing ex-city employees set benefits at the time they retired.    

Decision Time at City Hall

0 Comments · Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Just like a binging consumer who continues using credit cards to buy new items while making only minimum payments on the bills, Cincinnati officials now face the harsh reality of a financial problem they've tried to ignore for the past decade: properly funding the troubled pension fund for retired city employees.  

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