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Council Sets Property Tax Rate; Mayor Again Vetoes OTR Parking Plan

Cincinnati Council has decided the city should collect about $28.988 million in property tax revenue in 2017.  

City Council approved a tentative tax budget Wednesday asking for that amount of revenue.

The Hamilton County Auditor's office will now calculate the necessary millage rate.  A final rate should be available in mid-May.  

The vote on the latest budget came after the group was unsuccessful in overriding Mayor John Cranley’s veto of a tax budget approved last week.  It set the property tax rate at 5.6 mills, which would bring in about $29.3 million.  Cranley said that measure violates the long-standing “roll back” policy in which city council adjusts the property tax rate to keep the amount of revenue collected steady.  Council has been doing that since 2000.

Council Member Yvette Simpson voted against the plan.  She said the amount collected could be less than what is anticipated.

“We understand that we are making an estimate with respect for the policy in mind, trying to respect it,” Simpson said.  “But understanding that we’re talking about time that’s so far out, no one can predict to the dollar, $28.988 (million), so why would we change our process this year. Why?  I don’t understand it.”

There was much discussion about whether Council’s policy is to set a property tax millage rate, or set a dollar amount for how much property tax revenue to collect in a given year.

Council member Kevin Flynn says that issue needs clarification.

“Whether it’s millage or whether it’s dollar amount, we need to know what that is,” Flynn said.  “We need to decide what that is.  We can’t go into this every year telling our administration 'follow our policy,' when we’re not being clear on what our policy is.”

The discussion about property tax revenue comes as the city is facing at least a $14 million deficit in the its general fund budget for the fiscal year which starts July 1.  That projected shortfall could go even higher as contract negotiations begin with the city’s various labor unions.

Parking In Over-the-Rhine

Meanwhile, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley has once again vetoed a plan to bring a residential parking permit program to parts of Over-the-Rhine.  

City Council approved the pilot project by a 5-4 vote Wednesday.  But that is not enough to override the veto.  A similar measure was vetoed last year.  

The issue resurfaced because Vice Mayor David Mann thought he had six votes, which made it veto-proof.  But that changed.  He said parking in OTR still needs to be addressed.

“The point, I think, is when activity brings a lot of people and a lot of cars to a neighborhood, it’s incumbent on us to take that into account to show support for the residents,” Mann said.

The plan would have set aside 450 parking spaces for OTR residents.  The permits were projected to cost $108 a year.   Some low income residents would have paid $18 a year.

Mann had sent out a news release in December that said Council Member Charlie Winburn had decided to support the program.  But Winburn withdrew his support prior to Wednesday’s vote.

For his part, Winburn said he did not fully understand the issue.  He said he thought the program only applied to Republic Street.  Instead it covered several streets in the neighborhood.

“We have a right to change our minds. So what? I changed my mind,” Winburn said.  “But I do think we can still help the citizens in Over-the-Rhine, we can still get a win-win, and we can still try to work it out.  Everybody is not going to get what they want.”

City Council will have an opportunity next week to override the mayor’s veto.  But that is considered unlikely.