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Cincinnati manager answers questions about budget

Jay Hanselman

Cincinnati City Manager Milton Dohoney came before a council committee Monday to talk about his proposed 2013 spending proposal.

It was the first chance for members of the Budget and Finance Committee to ask him questions about his plan.  

Dohoney was asked about a decision last week by a bond rating agency to maintain the city’s current rating but it also issued a negative outlook.  He said it’s a warning bell.

“You cannot continue to the imbalance between expenses and revenues without taking some action to correct it,” Dohoney said.  “So it’s the warning bell that is essentially saying if you continue the run the risk of a downgrade.”

Dohoney balanced his 2013 general fund budget with a large chunk of one-time money from a plan to let a private firm operate the city's parking facilities including some garages and all the meters.  Nine companies have submitted plans for doing that.  

Dohoney told the committee a group is reviewing the proposals.

“Go through all of the details and not necessarily come up with a ranking of one through nine, but come up with the couple of firms that are better than the rest,” Dohoney said.  “We expect to be through the initial vetting process in just a matter of days.”

Dohoney said Council wouldn't likely vote on a particular proposal until next spring.  But he said the city could still use the revenue to balance next year's budget.  

Some Council Members and residents have been critical of the plan.  

Member Chris Seelbach said it's not perfect, but opponents haven't presented other options.

“I don’t support parking but I support increasing taxes, I don’t support parking but I support laying off police and firefighters, that’s an important element of this conversation,” Seelbach said.  “None of us love the possibility of semi-privatizing parking.  But compared to the alternatives I’ve seen, it potentially is the best solution.”

Reports suggest the city is close to striking a deal with the labor union that represents the city employees working in the parking division.  Two sources say the union would not oppose letting a private company operate the facilities in return for a promise from the city not to lay off any of the union's workforce for more than three years.  

The public can comment on the budget plan Thursday evening during a hearing at City Hall.