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CINCINNATI - The Hamilton County Board of Elections has counted enough signatures on a petition to block Cincinnati's plan to lease its parking system to get the issue on November's ballot.
Eight-thousand signatures were needed to get the referendum in the hands of the voters, and as of Friday morning, 10,120 had been counted as valid.
Cincinnati's Finance Department will now receive the signatures, and those signatures will then be sent on to City Council. Once City Council has the signatures, they will have to pass the motion to put the issue on the November ballot to let the voters decide on whether or not to allow the city to lease its parking operations.
But a referendum on the issue is not guaranteed just yet.
The First District Court of Appeals could overturn the injunction that was issued earlier this month preventing the lease from taking immediate effect. The court will hear arguments in the case May 6.
Concerned citizens in March won a temporary restraining order that blocked the agreement with the port authority to run the city's parking meters, lots and garages. The agreement, which was approved March 6 in a 5-4 council vote, would have given the city $92 million upfront and $3 million a year after that.
Cincinnati's City Council had planned to use part of a $92 million upfront payment from the parking lease to cover shortfalls in the 2014 and 2015 municipal budgets. Council must approve a balanced budget by July 1.
Without the lease, Cincinnati City Manager Milton Dohoney proposed a "Plan B" that includes 344 layoffs along with closing three community centers and six swimming pools, among other cuts.
The city's budget crisis is because council has been unwilling to make difficult choices in making cuts every year, said Mayor Mark Mallory.
Small businesses were worried rate increases and aggressive enforcement might drive away customers, while some residents said the city was undervaluing a prime city asset.
WCPO Digital's Kevin Osborne contributed to this report.
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