Thursday, February 27, 2003

City to borrow $6.5M to upgrade recreation



By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Westwood Town Hall, the Millvale Community Center and about 33 playgrounds around the city will get fix-ups starting this year, after Cincinnati City Council voted to spend an additional $6.5 million on recreation improvements Wednesday.

But that spending comes at the expense of neighborhood development projects. The city will borrow the recreation facility money from a $54 million neighborhood fund previously considered "off limits" to City Council's annual spending plan.

And instead of repaying that money from expected cost savings from privatizing some city services, as previously proposed, the city will sell bonds next year.

"I hope people recognize the budget gimmick that this is," said Councilman Pat DeWine, a critic of the plan. "How are we going to pay this back? By selling bonds - which is borrowing even more money."

Councilman David Crowley first proposed the additional spending, saying he didn't realize that almost all the $13 million the council approved for recreation improvements in its 2003-04 budget wouldn't be available until 2004.

The city needs more than $100 million to fix up its recreation facilities citywide, according to a study by the Cincinnati Recreation Commission.

Also voting for the Crowley plan were Paul Booth, Minette Cooper, Chris Monzel and James R. Tarbell.

Voting against Crowley - and for a compromise plan - were John Cranley, DeWine, David Pepper and Alicia Reece.

The alternative plan would have made $5.5 million available by moving money from other budgeted projects that have been moved back to 2004.

E-mail gkorte@enquirer.com




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