Hotel Tax Dispute Between City And County May Be Over

Jun 6, 2019

Updated: Thursday, 4:10 p.m.

Hamilton County officials are confirming a deal is done between the county and Cincinnati to amend their convention center cooperative agreement.

Hamilton County commissioners approved the agreement Thursday. Cincinnati City Council is next in line to vote on a change to the transient occupancy tax.

County commissioners and City Council need to approve a plan allowing the city to use money from the hotel/motel tax to meet the financial obligations it made to the FC Cincinnati stadium project.

County Budget Director John Bruggen says the deal will "allow the city to continue to utilize its residual dollars for FCC infrastructure, at the same time protecting the existing commitments to the Sharonville Convention Center."

Cincinnati offered $35 million in tax incentives to help build FC Cincinnati's stadium. It planned to take a portion of that from its share of the residual of the Transient Occupancy Tax, or the tax paid by visitors who stay in hotels and motels around the county.

Hamilton County leaders expressed some concerns about that plan in recent months. They worried how the city would cover its share of the debt on the Sharonville Convention Center should residuals from the hotel/motel tax fall short. They also wanted assurances that the city would continue its financial commitments to the Duke Energy Convention Center.

Commission President Denise Driehaus says all concerns are addressed in the updated resolution and it is a "win-win."

"It gives the city the flexibility to do the infrastructure work in the West End," Driehaus says. "But it also gives the county commissioners and the folks that rely on us for some of those top dollars for keeping and maintaining the Duke Energy Convention Center and also paying the debt we are obligated to pay to the Sharonville Convention Center."

Mayor John Cranley lashed out at the county earlier this year, saying commissioners and the Convention Facilities Authority were causing construction delays by not approving the city's plan.

Roger Friedman in the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office said Tuesday the city and county were hammering out the final language and expects all the signatures will be in place by the end of June. He says the problem arose when the city removed existing language from the deal about covering a potential shortfall.

That language - which says the city will backstop the county by paying $4 for every $1 from the county, up to $1.3 million, should there be a shortfall in residual hotel/motel tax funds - is back in place, Friedman says. $1.3 million is the amount the county committed to paying annually toward the debt service on the Sharonville Convention Center.

In a joint resolution released at Thursday's meeting, the city and county lay out how they will address any financial shortcomings.