Cincinnati may raise earnings tax to help close deficit

CINCINNATI -- People who work in the City of Cincinnati could pay more of their earnings in taxes. 

Raising the city earnings tax is the latest idea floated by city council members as they look to close a $31 million deficit. 

Cincinnati's earnings tax is currently 2.1 percent, the lowest among major cities in Ohio. It hasn't gone up since 1988. Workers in Toledo pay 2.25 percent to their city, and they pay 2.5 percent in Cleveland, Columbus in Dayton. 

Voters would have to approve any earnings tax increase, according to Council Member David Mann. 

"If we expect to have the kind of city we want — that's safe, that has an infrastructure that's kept modern, streets that are in good shape — we need to (have that) conversation at some point," he said.

Council Member Greg Landsman said he doesn't want new revenue to come from property taxes.

"Property taxes have increasingly gone up, and I think the average homeowner is really struggling with their property taxes," he said "So I think that's the last-resort option in terns of where we find our revenue."

City leaders are also considering parking rate hikes to help cover the deficit. Both the acting city manager and mayor included rate increases, expanded parking meter hours and more meters for Over-the-Rhine in their budget proposals.

The proposed changes include an increase from $0.75 to $1.25 per hour for meter parking in Northside.

"Raising the prices sure isn't going to help these businesses that are investing in Northside," Dana Brunson said.

Brunson owns and operates Designs By Dana on Hamilton Avenue. He said people coming in to get tattoos might think twice about his businesses after parking rate hikes.

"I don't think it's a good idea," Brunson said. "I just think it's bad for business."

One of the major cuts in Mayor John Cranley's budget is more than $500,000 from the Center for Closing the Health Gap. He said the organization should ask the United Way for funding.

Council Member Tamaya Dennard said she hopes a compromise can be reached.

"We only have a few African-American organizations," she said. "That organization does good work and we shouldn't let the politics get in the way of the good work they're doing."

Public comments and debate on the budget will continue next week. The city has to have a budget in place by June 30.

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