The Hamilton County Tax Levy Review Commission will be meeting at 138 East Court Street, 6th Floor, today, Monday, June 21 at 4:30pm: The purpose of the meeting is a public hearing to hear comment on options to address funding gaps in the "Stadium Fund" that have been presented during the past month by Commissioner Pepper, Commissioner Portune and Commissioner Hartman.
With the understanding that many things must happen to close the deficit, including help from the Reds and Bengals and some projected money beginning in 2013 from casino revenues, Hamilton County is responsible for payment on the construction bonds that were issued to build the baseball and football stadiums and other boondoggles such as the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and Riverfront Transit Center. Defaulting on the bonds or on the baseball or football team contract is not an option as the contracts appear to be legally solid and Hamilton County does need to pay its' bond debt. Generally, and somewhat subject to negotiation, the options are:
A) reduce, but not eliminate the "Property Tax Rollback" (PTR) that was promised to Hamilton County homeowners in 1996. This PTR gives some money back to Hamilton County residents when they pay their semi-annual tax bill, but does not give any money back to residents of other counties that make taxable purchases in Hamilton County. Because of the PTR to Hamilton County residental homeowners, the net burden of paying the debt is somewhat spread out among our neighboring counties.
B) A 1/4% or 1/2% addition to the Hamilton County sales tax rate for a limited number of years (10 years or 5 years) to make up the deficit.
C) Eliminate the Hamilton County contribution to University Hospital beginning after the end of the current Health and Hospitalization Levy (end of 2011). This option would reduce the amount of the Health and Hospitalization assessment beginning in 2012 for all taxable business and residential properties.This option would also include a reduction of the PTR that was promised in 1996, so the net effect for residential would be that the homeowner would see less of a PTR on their tax bill, but would also pay less tax due to a lower Health and Hospitalization assessment. Business properties would benefit from a lower property tax bill because of the reduction in the Health and Hospitalization levy. This option also considers that University Hospital might be kept somewhat whole as funding responsibilty for care shifts from local to federal dollars because of the National Health Insurance bill that was passed in congress and signed by President Obama. In theory, National Health Insurnace will cover everyone. Since funding for care of those unable to pay may become the burden of the federal government, should local taxpayers continue to contribute to University Hospital?
All three options are being discussed by the commissioners and nothing has been decided yet.Comments are welcome. The meeting will probably last about 60-75 minutes.
The Enquirer article on the topic is here. COAST's position is as follows:
1) First and foremost, the terrible choices we have relating to the Stadium Fund arose not just from the recession as the media and politicians keep telling is, but rather from unrealistic income expectations and massive over-spending in the Stadium Fund.
2) This has been exacerbated by continued spending from that fund by Commissioners Portune and Pepper, money for attorneys, money for Banks development, money for the Riverfront Transit Center.
3) In addition, general fund monies and special fund monies that have been mis-directed over the past three years could have been applied to this problem if that had not been squandered
a. The most prominent of these is the $3 million per year excess in the Convention Center Expansion fund (Transient Occupancy Tax) overage. Those monies going forward still have not been accounted for properly. Why not apply them to this problem?
b. This was squandered, among other things, on the Film Commission
4) So, there are important lessons out community can learn about pie-in-the-sky projections from politicians and economists that just don’t pan out. Let’s not make these mistakes again
a. The most prominent of these is, of course, the Cincinnati Trolley, but there are more. There are always more.
5) The property tax rollback (PTR) was a solemn promise to the voters when the tax was enacted. It must be kept not just as a matter of fiscal policy, but as a matter of civic integrity.
6) Moreover, the Pepper plan to eliminate part of the PTR is simply dishonest as it provides no long-term relief to the problem; it is a Band-Aid of a fix.
7) Any tax increase, whether eliminating the PTR or a sales tax increase should be placed before the voters as a choice.
8) We propose that the County cut over-spending in the general fund and use that surplus to continue to fund the PTRWhere to cut? The County Commissioners should not have disbanded and should re-empanel the managed competition committee to ferret savings from a wasteful County bureaucracy.