Sunday, March 11, 2001

Drop in tax revenue could affect projects

Riverfront financing, rebate uncertain

By Allen Howard
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A continued drop in Hamilton County's sales tax collections could affect the promised property tax rebate and other riverfront projects, a county official said after reviewing revenue for December 2000.

        The county's sales tax revenue for December showed a 12 percent drop from last year, county officials learned Friday.

        County voters approved a half-cent sales tax in 1996 to finance construction of stadiums for the Reds and Bengals.

        County commissioners promised to use money from the sales tax to give property tax relief and to finance other riverfront projects on the land between the stadiums.

        According to the Hamilton County Department of Administrative Services, $5.72 million was collected in December, $827,666 less than the $6.5 million collected in December 1999.

        It was the 10th month out of the last 11 that sales tax receipts have not met the county's projected 3 percent growth over the previous year.

        Although county officials said the shortfall may not hamper the stadium-building cash flow, they are worried.

        “I fear the county may end up cutting property tax rebates that were promised,” said Dusty Rhodes, county auditor.

        Mr. Rhodes said he told county officials that their 3 percent projection was too high.

        “When I first warned them about the 3 percent projection, they called me "Chicken Little.' They would rather listen to their high-priced financial consultants who told them what they wanted to hear,” Mr. Rhodes said.

        “Their projections were so far in the ozone, it wasn't funny. We are long overdue for an economic downfall.”

        David Krings, county administrator, said he is deeply concerned but said there is adequate funding for the county to meet its obligations for stadium funding.

        “The economy has slowed, but there are indications that it is coming back,” Mr. Krings said.

        “The 3 percent projection is pretty much normal. Mr. Rhodes said 3 percent was too high,” he said. “The banks tell us it is too low, that it should have been 7 percent.”


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