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

Posted: 10:30 AM, Jun 03, 2019
Updated: 2019-06-03 10:55:20-04
Streetcar strikes Metro bus downtown

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.

WCPO's ongoing series, Move Up Cincinnati, brings you stories about how people in our area are transforming our city and the way we get around. We will also tell the stories of those left behind -- and the people working to bring our communities together. To contact the Move Up Cincinnati team, email us at moveupcincinnati@wcpo.com .