Commissioners in debate over stadium funding source

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - In 1996, voters agreed to fund Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ball Park. Property owners got a tax credit in exchange for increasing the sales tax by a half cent.

However, sales tax revenues didn't bring in the money the county had counted on, so for the last few years, Hamilton County Commissioners have been forced to find other ways to pay for the hefty price tags attached to the stadium fund.

Commissioners have used different approaches in the past to come up with the money needed. They sold Drake Hospital in 2011, and in 2012 they voted 2-1 to cut the rollback in half, forcing property taxpayers to shell out more money.

No one is suggesting raising rates evening more, but other than that, there's little agreement.

"This year we're starting early. We're going to figure this out," Commissioner Chris Monzel told FOX19.

They are now looking at two options: Maintain the new tax rate or reinstate the rollback and find some other solution to collect the cash needed to keep the stadium fund out of the red.

"I just don't think it's realistic at this point to reinstate that full rollback. The modeling shows that. If you put it back to the full amount, we would be in deficit status within a year and that's not good policy," added Commissioner Greg Hartmann.

Hartmann supports maintaining the higher property tax rate arguing it balances the fund for five years and gives the county a chance to refinance bonds and take advantage of increasing sales tax revenues.

"That's not what voters were promised, and I believe very strongly that the promise that was made should be honored," said Commissioner Todd Portune.

Portune was the only commissioner to vote against the tax rate increase last year. He's advocating to instead spread the tax burden out.

"We have two bad options so you pick the lesser of the two evils and frankly, the other option is a limited sales tax in a limited duration," Portune added.

Monzel has a different proposal, which includes reducing existing property tax levies.

Commissioners have until November to decide what the property tax rates will be in 2014. They're expected to vote Wednesday on the new bond assurity through PNC Bank and expect the tax topic will be a part of that conversation.

Copyright 2013 WXIX. All rights reserved.