Debate to pay off downtown stadiums continues

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The debate on how to pay for both stadiums downtown Cincinnati continues.

In previous years, the argument has centered around raising property taxes or even selling off county assets for increased revenue. The county is just about 20 years into the loan.

If all goes as planned, residents will see their taxes go down next year and continue to stay flat for the next five years. County commissioners say this is the most stable plan they've had in years. A lot of that has to do with an improving economy.

It wasn't cheap to build Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ballpark. In fact, at one point, the county owed nearly $1 billion for the stadiums combined.

"It's a lot of money we're talking about and it's going to take a lot of time to get through to paying those mortgages off," says Commissioner Chris Monzel.

Monzel says over the years they we're forced to raise property taxes and even sell the Drake hospital for what many thought was an under-priced value because the economy was so bad.

"The housing crisis, the banking crisis all that drove our sales tax down, drove the sales tax fund for stadiums down to a point where we were looking at deficits of 300 million dollars or more," explains Monzel.

But Monzel says the county's sales tax receipts are increasing and the economy is bouncing back, especially locally with the resurgence of downtown Cincinnati with The Banks and Over-the-Rhine and also casino revenue.

"All those things have played into helping bring folks into Hamilton County, use their money and thus help us in regards to the sales tax being increased," says Monzel.

So what does this mean for taxpayers? Monzel says more property tax rebate for residents.

"My family every dollar counts because we just came from the furlough so you know how that slowed us down a little bit so we steadily building ourselves back up," says homeowner Jeff Gover.

Monzel says typically the property tax rebate is about $70 on a home valued at $100,000. Currently homeowners are getting half of that, but Monzel says hopefully this plan gives even more back.

"We've heard promises before in the past so I'm just hoping for the good of the people that they stick to their promises," explains Gover.

There's still several years left before the stadiums are paid off. The county says they come up with these plans every five years because of how much the economy fluctuates.

Monzel says the county hopes to vote on the proposed funding plan by the end of the month.

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