Could parking lease balance Cincinnati budget

Nov 20, 2012

Could Cincinnati's massive general fund budget deficit be gone?  It could be, but it comes with a big if.

Earlier reports suggested City Manager Milton Dohoney, Jr. would have to close a $34 to $40 million deficit.  

But during council committee meeting last week at least a couple Council Members dropped hints his plan will again close the deficit with no layoffs for city workers.  

Reportedly the manager could close a large portion of the deficit with a sizeable up-front payment in a contract to lease the city's parking system to a private operator.  

The city would maintain ownership of the lots, garages and parking meters and share some the system's net operating income during the term of the lease.  

Council would have to approve such an arrangement.  

City officials said the plan would improve the parking system because a private operator could invest in technology and upgrade the facilities.  

The union representing about 30 workers who could lose their jobs isn't buying the plan and is prepared to fight it.  

Leaders with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees said a private operator could increase parking rates significantly and they see it as a quick fix to shore up the city budget that hasn't been properly vetted.  

Some city council members aren't sold on the parking plan either.  

Also helping ease the 2013 deficit are better than expected revenue collections this year and lower than projected spending.

Closing the budget gap with one time funds still means the spending plan is structurally out of balance.  The city would still be paying out more money than it's collecting in revenue.  

The manager is scheduled to release his plan Monday.