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Cincinnati Council approves budget; property taxes increase in 2014

Jay Hanselman

The full Cincinnati Council has formally approved the 2013 city budget.

Most of the votes were 6-3…with Qualls, Young, Quinlivan, Seelbach, Simpson and Thomas voting yes and Sittenfeld, Smitherman and Winburn voting no.

Council didn’t vote Friday to approve leasing the operation of some city parking facilities to a private company.

City Manager Milton Dohoney, Jr. used $21 million dollars of upfront money from that proposal to balance the 2013 budget. Council adopted the budget with some changes, but the parking plan revenues remain in the plan and will move ahead. Council could vote on a parking contract in February or March.

Council changes to the budget include $150,000 for Media Bridges, maintaining the police department’s mounted patrol and restoring funds for human services programs and arts grants.

The Council is also supporting police and fire recruits classes in 2014 even if the federal government doesn’t provide grant money for the additional police officers and firefighters.

The approved budget also maintained income tax reciprocity for residents who live in the city but work outside city limits. They will still be able to deduct the earnings tax amounts they pay to other municipalities from their city income taxes. The City Manager had proposed eliminating reciprocity to generate another $6.5 million for the city.

Council Member P.G. Sittenfeld voted against parts of the budget because of his concerns about the parking portion.

"My concern with this budget, especially the proposal to outsource our parking system, that is both directly and indirectly baked into this budget, is that we’re focusing on the short-term at the sacrifice of the long-term vibrancy of the city," Sittenfeld said. "Our job isn’t to do what’s easiest or least painful or to take the path of least resistance. Our job is to do what’s right and what’s best."

Sittenfeld suggested the budget could be balanced with anticipated casino revenue, reducing supervisory positions in city government, reducing travel budgets, and sharing services with other governments.

Council Member Chris Seelbach said he was happy to support the 2013 budget.

"If you have ideas that aren’t what’s being proposed, that you present them and that you try to get signatures, five of us to sign a motion that would result in an ordinance," Seelbach said. "There’s a lot of things that have been said about parking and other alternatives, let’s see what those other alternatives actually look like."

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls chairs Council’s Budget and Finance Committee and helped draft the final budget plan.

"This budget prioritizes our neighborhoods and will improve our economic competitiveness, make the city safer and healthier, protect our citizens who are most in need, and support our world class parks and arts," said Qualls

Meanwhile, Council also approved increasing the amount of property tax revenue the city will collect in 2014.

From 2000 to 2011 the city consistently collected about $29 million in property tax revenue.

For this year and next year, a Council majority reduced the amount to $23.5 million. In 2014 it increases to the $29 million.