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Booting cars, steeper parking costs and fines among options to plug streetcar budget gap

Streetcar strikes Metro bus downtown
Posted at 10:30 AM, Jun 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-03 10:55:20-04

CINCINNATI — The city administration has come up with a list of possible solutions to plug a looming streetcar budget deficit, but it is unclear if City Council will get onboard.

Late last month, City Manager Patrick Duhaney informed the council of a projected $1.4 million shortfall — which his administration last week downgraded to $1.2 million — in the Cincinnati Bell Connector's annual operating budget for fiscal year 2020, which begins July 1.

"(T)he city has exhausted its reasonable options to reduce expenditures and therefore cannot present a (fiscal year) 2020 balanced budget within the existing sources" of revenue, officials wrote in a presentation slated on Monday's Budget and Finance Committee meeting agenda.

Those recommendations will include:

  • Eliminating the Admissions Tax exemption for non-profit organizations: Cincinnati charges a 3% admission tax on tickets sold at baseball or football games, as well as at concerts. The money goes to the general fund. Administration officials estimate this could raise $1.5 million in additional revenue.
  • Parking booting program: Previous City Councils have nixed the idea of booting illegally parked cars, but the administration predicts implementing such a program could bring in as much as $500,000 per year.
  • OTR parking permit increase: Increasing the cost of Over-the-Rhine's residential parking permits — already a point of controversy in recent months — from $60 per year to $360 per year could generate an additional $150,000 in annual revenue.
  • Steeper parking fines: Officials estimate that increasing parking fines by $5 per citation could yield an additional $400,000 in annual revenue.

If City Council will not approve eliminating the admissions tax exemption for non-profits, the lawmakers would have to adopt all three parking-related solutions to fill the entire budget gap.

One of the administration's first considerations was to reduce streetcar service, but officials said even a 50 percent service cut would only reduce the projected deficit by less than $390,000.

Earlier this year, the city administration and the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority began negotiations for city officials to take over day-to-day management beginning next month. The city owns the 3.6-mile streetcar loop, and SORTA oversees a third party, Transdev, who manages day-to-day operations.

Last year, City Council initiated plans to consolidate streetcar management into a single office.

City officials are scheduled to present options for filling the budget gap during Monday afternoon's Budget and Finance Committee, beginning at 1 p.m.