Thursday, June 26, 2003

Covington OKs $38M for budget

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COVINGTON - The Covington City Commission has approved a new $38 million budget, but only after two commissioners won assurances that the spending plan will be changed to improve the city's economic development efforts.

Commissioners gave their unanimous approval Tuesday night to a 2003-'04 budget that proposes no tax or fee increases and no staff reductions.

However, that vote was predicated on staff presenting a plan next month that addresses business retention and recruitment. Without major improvements in the economic development department, Commissioner Alex Edmondson said that he could not vote for the budget.

Both Edmondson and Commissioner Craig Bohman sought a pledge that the city's economic development department decrease its reliance on the Newport Steel fund, which was intended to provide loans for economic growth. Created more than 20 years ago, that fund has steadily shrunk, mostly because it has been used to help subsidize daily operations.

Commissioner Bernie Moorman also said he thinks Covington's 2.5 percent payroll tax hurts the city's efforts to keep and attract businesses. He voted for the budget after assurances from Finance Director Bob Due the city was not in trouble financially.

"Are there concerns?'' Due asked. "Yes. Are they manageable concerns? Yes.''

Moorman said that he's pleased with the recent hiring of Andy Riffe as an assistant city administrator overseeing economic development. However, he wants to see a strategic plan developed to better coordinate economic development efforts.

In calling for "major, serious changes in economic development,'' Edmondson suggested the city explore options such as setting aside some revenues from new businesses for a loan pool that would spur other economic growth. He also urged economic development staff to be more aggressive in contacting companies, publicizing local incentive programs and making sure that businesses' needs are met.

Without "a dramatic change in economic development,'' Edmondson predicted that Covington "will be left in the dust.''

Two weeks ago, Bohman proposed an alternative budget that included slashing $2 million and 20 city jobs. He later withdrew his proposal, saying he'd been misunderstood. Bohman said he wants to see City Manager Greg Jarvis study Covington's operational costs and help identify ways to make tax cuts feasible over time.

Commissioner Jerry Bamberger maintained Tuesday that Covington is "business friendly'' and does, in fact, recruit a lot of businesses. He also criticized Bohman's alternative budget, saying it was filled with fallacies. As one example, he said the city would have to eliminate 30 positions, not 20, to save $2 million.


Space doctor to help build expertise in robotic surgery
Navy sinks plan for sub display
First lady captivates Oyler students
West Chester regrouping

Teens spruce up the neighborhood
Local teens get art hung in Capitol
Photo of the day: Partners test skills
Students get taste of crime-solving
Obituary: Joseph Tucker, 68
Tristate A.M. Report

SMITH AMOS: Music festival deserves corporate Cincinnati's help
HOWARD: Some good news
PULFER: Can't we do more than park cars for $15 million?

Theater debuting Friday
Arson ruled cause of strip-center fire in Deerfield Twp.
Cameras to guard Hamilton schools
Monroe seeks citizens' advice
Work begins on $6.5M Union Twp. civic center
Liberty trustee looks to House seat
Little Miami school crunches numbers on college-bound grads

Ohio Senate passes bill to remove offensive language from lawbooks
Concealed weapons bill may be dead; negotiations dissolve
Veteran church bell ringer wants to hang it up at 83
County judge orders adult store to close
MU president gives student $10 to repay debt
Ohio Moments

Thomas More College fund drive ends with over $300,000
Covington OKs $38M for budget
Truck search finds cocaine
Interstate link to complete route to coast
W. Nile fear may boost skeeter fish
Raises, scholarships part of new UK budget
Kentucky obituaries