Council committee votes on property tax increase

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The Budget and Finance Committee voted 5-1 Monday with three abstentions to raise property taxes to pay for capital projects. The vote came after hours of debate and three separate votes taken due to confusion among some of the council members on the language of the issue.

When it was all said and done, the vote caused the property tax millage rate for the operating fund to remain at 4.6. The operating fund is used for the basic operation of the city. However, five council members voted to increase the property tax millage rate for the capital improvement fund from 5.9 to 6.1 which was requested by the City Administration. The fund is used for projects such as the streetcar, Smale Riverfront Park construction and street renovations.

The votes in favor came after the city solicitor announced he would be obligated to sue City Council if they voted against the increase. The solicitor says he would sue because the increased millage rate is required to pay off existing debt. Budget office representatives argued failure to increase the capital millage rate could lead to a lowered city bond rating.

"We just can't be a council that works this way," said Councilwoman Yevette Simpson.  "we have to make sure that we fulfill our obligations, the ones that we've already made at the very least.  If not look to the future, which is what I would hope we would be willing to do."

Council members Christopher Smitherman and Charlie Winburn argued the increase was not necessary and that the money needed to pay off the existing debt can come out of the existing fund, from projects such as the streetcar.

"At the end of the day, I think citizens are gonna appreciate that people are out here saying, you know, you have to live within your means.  That's the message today," said Smitherman.

Winburn's take was a little different.

"I think the message also today is that some of our colleagues tried to trip us up with all the council procedures today," said Winburn. "Trying to hide tax increases, we were able to put our glasses on for the taxpayers of Cincinnati and found where they were trying to raise our taxes."

Full council is expected to take a final vote on property taxes on Tuesday because that session is the final meeting before summer recess for council until August.

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