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Council Set To Approve Streetcar Operating Funds

Bill Rinehart, WVXU

The full Cincinnati Council will vote Wednesday on an ordinance to fund the first year of the city's streetcar operations.  

The Budget and Finance Committee approved the measure Monday.  

The ordinance sets aside $2,305,917 from the city to cover the anticipated $4,218,092 first year streetcar operating expenses.  

Some of that money will come from the system itself with fare revenues, advertising and naming rights.  

The city funding is coming largely from increased parking meter revenues and additional meter hours in Downtown and Over-the-Rhine.  

Council Member Chris Seelbach said this is good news.

"Some of us thought we might actually have to go into the general fund, but that's not the case," Seelbach said.  "We're funding the streetcar through parking revenue, through the Haile Foundation, through streetcar fares, naming rights and sponsorships, and the VTICA (a voluntary developer funding source).  I think this is a really good solution to funding our streetcars."

But council member Christopher Smitherman disagreed the plan protects the general fund.  He argued that parking meter revenue does benefit the fund that pays for basic city services like police and fire.

"I think the administration has been clear that we are using general fund dollars, that we are fronting money in for the first years in order to operate the streetcar," Smitherman said.  "And that all of these things that we're discussing for the public of course, because this is their money, that these are simply assumptions."

City Budget Director Chris Bigham said the measure also includes $550,000 on a contingency line.

"Because it's the first year, we're not certain what those numbers are going to actually come in at," Bigham said.  "So what this does in the first year is appropriate an additional $550,000 out of the fund balance in case those numbers fall short, there's still an appropriation for the first 12 months so we would not necessarily have to cut service."

The Cincinnati streetcar is scheduled to begin passenger fare service in September.