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Local News

Final public hearing on Cincinnati budget

Jay Hanselman

Cincinnati Council will spend the rest of the week completing work on the 2013 city budget. 

About 40 people spoke during the final public hearing Monday night in Corryville.

There were again a number of speakers who asked Council to preserve funding for Media Bridges.  It operates several cable-access channels and a small radio station in the city.

Executive Director Tom Bishop said turnout for the group should show Council Members the value of the service.

“More importantly you heard the impact of their words, how they have changed their lives and the lives of others through the use of community media,” Bishop said.  “We’ve gone through all the right steps, we’ve shown up support, numbers and impact.  In a democracy we’ve done all the right things.  You do the right thing and support funding for public and educational access television.”

The City Manager proposed eliminating $300,000 of city funding for Media Bridges.  The group did receive money from a subscriber fee from Time Warner Cable, but that ended in 2011.

Cincinnati Police Officer Ingrid Weber asked Council to maintain the department’s mounted patrol.  She’s a member of the unit.

“This is a valuable unit and I hate to see it thrown away,” Weber said.  “A lot of you people have seen what we do.  I personally was involved in the riots, I’ve been to a lot of public events for the city and you just don’t know what you are giving away.”

The manager proposed eliminating the mounted patrol.  But there are enough Council Members who support the program that it likely will be maintained in the final budget.

Resident Jessie Bullock was one of several speakers asking for the city to maintain funding for the arts grants program.  He said it’s a key ingredient of the city’s vitality.

“For me, that’s what keeps me here, is the city alive, is it a place that I want to stay and raise my family and so I think arts plays a crucial role in that,” Bullock said.

Other speakers Monday night expressed support for the city funding for human services and parks.

About a half dozen of those offering testimony were against a proposal to lease the operation of city parking facilities to a private operator.  That company would manage some of the city’s garages and lots and all the parking meters.

Beth Whalen from Clifton is against the plan.

“We already have significant issues with parking in Clifton as you probably know and we fear that privatizing the parking in the city would deter visitors and residents from patronizing our district and shopping local,” Whalen said.  “We urge you to consider other means to address the budget issues, ways that don’t effect the momentum we’re building to revitalize our neighborhood.”

The plan to semi-privatize parking would come with at least a $40 million upfront payment.  The manager used half of that money to balance the 2013 general fund.

If Council were to reject the parking plan in February or March, it would have to find other revenue or savings to cover that amount.  The City Manager estimates more than 340 employees would have to be laid off without the parking proposal.

The manager is also suggesting Council end what’s called income tax reciprocity.  Cincinnati has always allowed residents who work outside the city to reduce their city income tax by the amount they pay to other municipalities.  Ending that practice could bring in an additional $6.5 million for the city.

Longtime resident Thomas Hayes said reciprocity should be maintained.

“This is an unfair penalty that you’re imposing on Cincinnati residents who have lived here a long time and rely on tax fairness,” Hayes said.  “If you have to and can’t cut the budget, then go ahead and raise the income tax from 2.1 percent to 2.3 or 2.4.  Let all of us share in the cost.  Don’t penalize those people that have jobs elsewhere, it’s grossly unfair.”

Cincinnati voters would have to approve an increase in the city’s income tax rate.

The Budget and Finance Committee is scheduled to meet Thursday morning to finalize the 2013 spending plan and the full Council is expected to adopt it Friday.