by Andy Brownfield
Two-to-one vote cuts rollback in half for two years to make up stadium fund deficit
Hamilton County homeowners can expect a larger bill come
tax time. The Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners on
Wednesday voted to halve the property tax rollback promised to voters as part
of the package to build the two downtown sports stadiums.
The rollback saves property owners $70 in taxes for every
$100,000 of valuation. For the next two years they will be paying an
extra $35 per $100,000 of their home’s value.
The money will be used to balance the stadium fund, which
faces a $7 million deficit. The rollback reduction is expected to raise
about $10 million. The board voted 2-1 for the proposal, with sole Democrat Todd Portune dissenting.
“The property tax rollback measure that has been advanced
so far buys us only one year, and next year we will be doing the same
thing we are doing today,” Portune said.
Portune favored raising the sales tax by 0.25 cents — to
6.75 — per dollar, which would have raised more than $30 million over 10
years. His proposal, which failed to receive any support, would have
expired after the 10 years and gone up for review annually after the
Portune said his proposal was more equitable. He said
reducing the property tax rollback was going to affect only Hamilton
County residential property owners, whereas a sales tax increase would
affect everyone who spends money in the county, including visitors from
neighboring Kentucky and Indiana.
Portune billed the tax increase as a long-term solution
that would raise more than was needed currently but would keep the fund
stable in years to come.
Board President Greg Hartmann, who authored the rollback
reduction proposal, called Portune’s plan “a bridge too far.” He said
it was too large of a tax increase and not a targeted approach to solve
the deficit problem. He said he didn’t trust future commissions to allow
the tax increase to expire.
Hartmann called the property tax rollback reduction flexible, scalable, clean, immediate and certain.
Commissioner Chris Monzel, who provided the deciding vote, said he didn’t like either and had to go against his principles with
“No way I walk out of this without breaking a promise. No way I walk out of this winning,” he said.
Monzel said he hopes that savings from the Affordable Care Act
would allow the county to lower its property tax rates to make up for
the rollback reduction.
Monzel also introduced a successful proposal that will include an annual
review of the tax budget to make sure property taxes don’t change,
a provision requiring parking revenue from The Banks to be used to
develop The Banks and a directive for the county administrator to work
with Cincinnati’s professional sports teams on concessions they can make
to help out with the stadium funding burden.
by German Lopez
Mandel hires political workers, county will raise taxes, city faces privatization or layoffs
Republican Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel is hiring political workers and friends at his job again.
His latest hires are Joe Aquilino, former campaign political director
to Mandel’s U.S. Senate campaign, and Jared Borg, former campaign
political coordinator. During the 2010 campaign for the state
treasurer’s office, Mandel said, “Unlike the current officeholder, I
will ensure that my staff is comprised of qualified financial
professionals — rather than political cronies and friends — and that
investment decisions are based on what is best for Ohioans.” Mandel’s
spokesperson defended the hires by touting the treasurer’s
accomplishments in office.
With a vote set for tomorrow, it’s still unsure how the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners will solve the stadium fund deficit, but it seems like both options require tax increases.
Commissioner Todd Portune, the lone Democrat on the board, proposed
increasing the sales tax by 0.25 percent. Board President Greg Hartmann,
a Republican, presented an alternative plan that reduces the property
tax rollback by 50 percent for two years, but he also said he’s not sure
how he’ll vote. Commissioner Chris Monzel, a Republican, says he
wants to find a plan that doesn’t raise taxes.
Either parking services are privatized or 344 city employees are laid off. That’s how City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. framed budget talks to City Council yesterday.
The city has already made drastic cuts since 2000, laying off 802
employees. Dohoney also pushed for repealing the property tax rollback
promised as part of the stadium deal in 1996, but City Council does not
want to raise taxes in the middle of a slow economy. The fact is any form of austerity will be painful,
so City Council should be as cautious of spending cuts as tax hikes. A
public hearing on the budget will be held Thursday at 6 p.m.
The city of Cincinnati’s plan to buy Tower Place Mall and the adjacent Pogue’s Garage in downtown is moving forward.
The city offered to buy the mall and garage for $8.5 million in order
to spur economic development in the area. The parking garage and
half-empty mall are currently in foreclosure.
Cincinnati State is looking to expand.
The Horseshoe Casino has begun its final round of hiring. The casino is set to open in spring 2013. A Washington Post analysis found casinos bring jobs, but also crime, bankruptcy and suicide.
One year later, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources hasn’t followed up on a court order to compensate flooded landowners.
The State Controlling Board approved three programs
that will provide transitional housing and other services to the
homeless. As part of the initiative, Habitat for Humanity of Ohio will
receive $200,000, the Homeless Crisis Response Program will receive
$12,680,700 and the Supportive Housing Program will receive $9,807,600
from the Ohio Housing Trust Fund.Great numbers from November from auto companies could mean more hires.
The U.S. Supreme Court is delaying action on same-sex marriage. CityBeat covered gay marriage in Ohio and whether Ohioans are ready to embrace it in a Nov. 28 cover story.
A dissolving nanofabric could soon replace condoms for protecting against pregnancy and HIV.
by German Lopez
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
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
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
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.