Tue March 18, 2014
Are there different ways to pay for city streetcar?
A Cincinnati Council Committee tasked with overseeing the streetcar project wants more information on different ways to pay for it. Those funds could be used to extend it to the Uptown area near the University of Cincinnati, or for dollars to operate the loop now being built in Downtown and Over-the-Rhine.
The Major Transportation Committee Tuesday asked for more details on special improvement districts or special assessment districts.
"It's a form of self-taxation and I think that is probably why it's fairly rare to see them," Council Member Kevin Flynn said describing such district. "People are saying in order to receive this enhanced benefit, we are willing to tax ourselves more."
City officials are still looking for money to operate the first phase of the streetcar even though some private dollars have been pledged for operating costs. Besides the possibility of federal grants, there is no funding source for a second phase.
Vice Mayor David Mann and Council Member Amy Murray just returned from Portland where special assessments have been used to fund major portions of the streetcar in that city.
"For them it's really been the community has come to them and said okay we want the streetcar phase here, will you please build it," Murray said. "Instead of city hall saying we're doing this, it's the community coming and saying we want this."
In Cincinnati, the only special assessment district is for Downtown Cincinnati, and DCI uses those funds for various programs including marketing and activities.
Property owners would have to agree to such a proposal to pay for the streetcar through a petition process that city council would then formally adopt and set the property assessment rate.
City lawyers and streetcar officials will be reviewing the proposals and report back to the council committee.