It's crunch time. In Columbus, the state legislature has to complete Ohio's next two-year budget by next Thursday, June 30. At city hall, Council has to arrive at an agreement about the property tax rate. That, in turn, sets the context for the level of cuts that will be necessary when the final two-year city budget is due at the end of the calendar year.
This morning, Newsmakers is devoted to discussions of the state and city budgets on the eve of final decisions. We begin with the state budget. The election last November resulted in a Republican sweep in Columbus. Gov. John Kasich is working with a general assembly in which Republicans hold a 59-40 seat majority in the House and a 23-10 majority in the Senate. A new two-year state budget must be adopted by next Thursday, June 30, for the beginning of the new fiscal year the next day. Both the Senate and the House have adopted budgets, and over the last several weeks, a conference committee made up of members of both houses have been working to iron out differences.
To discuss the final negotiations and the possible implications of the new budget, I have invited two local members of the House of Representatives. Peter Stautberg is a Republican who represents the 34th House District, which covers much of eastern Hamilton County. Mr. Stautberg lives in Anderson Township and is an attorney with Fifth Third Bank. And Connie Pillich, a Democrat who represents the 28th District that stretches across portions of northern Hamilton County. Ms. Pillich lives in Montgomery. She is an attorney in private practice.
The city of Cincinnati's fiscal year corresponds to the calendar year, so Council does not have to complete a two-year budget until December, after the fall elections, but Council must tell the Hamilton County auditor what the property tax rate will be. For over a decade, Council has been rolling back its tax rate, but it reached a point where it would generate $28.9 million a year. The city manager proposed increasing the tax rate to the maximum 6.1 mills to generate $32 million, leaving a $25 million deficit to be closed in a new budget this fall, but a majority of council wants to keep the rate at 4.6 mills. Given falling property tax values, that will generate about $24 million, increasing the projected deficit that has to be closed by an additional $8 million to $33 million. Although a five-member majority of Council is ready to vote for this, Mayor Mark Mallory has suspended a final decision until this Wednesday.
To discuss where we stand on the property tax rate and what might be cut from the operating budget to respond to the falling revenue, I am joined by Laure Quinlivan, a Democrat in her first term on City Council, and Amy Murray, a Republican, who is also in her first term, having been appointed to the seat vacated when Chris Monzel was elected Hamilton County commissioner.