Hamilton County Commissioners have approved the 2016 operating budget for the Metropolitan Sewer District.
The budget delays any rate increase until the middle of next year, after an affordability task force delivers its findings.
The county's Director of Utility Oversight, Dave Meyer, says more than half of the $238 million plan is debt and debt service.
“We’re kind of at a watershed point. This is the first year where the debt service is now exceeding the operation and maintenance budget. This is something that, based where we are today, we foresee happening into the future,” he says.
The Metropolitan Sewer District has been a partnership between Hamilton County and Cincinnati since a 1968 agreement. The county owns the sewer district and is responsible for its budget. The city manages MSD and owns some assets. But the relationship between the two entities has soured.
The budget resolution includes a clause preventing the city from using MSD funds to sue the county. Commission President Greg Hartmann calls that "amazing," but says it’s happened multiple times.
“If you remember the procurement fight that we had in federal court, ... (That was) paid for, (with) outside lawyers, with MSD funds. The city intervening in the fight against the county on the Ohio EPA permit, even after this board passed a resolution prohibiting the city from doing so... (that was) paid for, (with) outside lawyers, with MSD funds,” Hartmann says.
Hartmann has said he'd like to end the MSD partnership with the city before it expires in 2018.