No new stadium sales tax plan yet from Hamilton County Commissioners

Wednesday deadline looms

CINCINNATI - Hamilton County Commissioners have two days left to approve a plan to keep the stadium sales tax fund in the black.

Unless Commissioners take action the fund to pay for upkeep at Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ball Park will have a $14 million shortfall by the end of next year.

Greg Hartmann, Chris Monzel and Todd Portune discussed the issue during Monday's staff meeting, but no deal had the required two votes needed for passage.

The deadline is 11:50 p.m. on Wednesday so property tax rates can be finalized by the Auditor and tax bills prepared by the Treasurer.

The stumbling block is the amount of property tax rebate Hamilton County property owners will receive.

Monzel and Portune want it fully funded.  Hartmann supports a slight increase in the rebate.

Only Hartmann's plan is on the table right now.  It says…

The County adheres to existing lease terms concerning stadium operating costs

  • The Reds agree to limit capital requests to $2 million in  total through 2015
  • The Bengals agree to limit capital requests to $6 million in total through 2015
  •  The property tax rebate becomes $5.5 million through 2015
  • Beginning in 2015 the property tax rebate would increase with sales tax growth
  • 100% of anticipated casino revenue is dedicated to the Sales Tax Fund
  •  The debt service reserve fund surety issue is resolved without the need for regular sales tax revenue support

  "My resolution that I put forward balances the stadium fund for four years," said Hartmann.

Hartmann said fully funding the property tax rollback isn't feasible, since sales tax revenues are below projections.

"A plan to fully fund it is going to have to come up with in the neighborhood of $19 million," he said.  "If that money can be found sitting around, I certainly have not been able to find it in four years."

The Hartmann plan's property tax rebate would range from $1.55 to $3.55 per $100,000 home valuation, depending upon taxes voted in a particular area.  There are 113 different taxing districts in Hamilton County.

Portune and Monzel are clinging to the full-funding model, since that's what voters approved in 1996 when they increased the sales tax to pay for new ball parks for the Bengals and Reds.

That places the property tax rebate between $28.07 and $64.42 per $100,000 valuation.

Monzel is proposing that the county sell Drake Hospital to UC Health, but Hartmann said the price being offered is too low and receipts couldn't be used for the stadium sales tax fund.

Portune is backing a concept of increasing the marketing for both ball parks to bring in more revenue, but Hartmann said that wouldn't produce needed revenue in 2012.

Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes said Commissioners are trying to keep some of the property tax rollback because it required special legislation from the Ohio General Assembly.

"It's a one-time only deal," he said.  "If it goes, they're going to have to get a new law to bring it back again.

Rhodes was also critical of the process being played out by Commissioners.

"It's what got Greece into trouble," he said.  "We're going to give you all these benefits, but we don't know how we're going to pay for them."

He compared it to a person driving down a road and knowing the bridge ahead is out.

"You're going to stop," he said.  "You may stop four feet from the edge or you may stop at the bottom of the ravine, but you are going to stop."

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