City parks
12:14 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

Borrowing money for Smale park will likely mean no property tax decrease

Cincinnati Council is expected to vote Wednesday to issue $8 million worth of bonds to finish another portion of Smale Riverfront Park.  That borrowing likely will mean city homeowners will not see a decrease in a portion of their city property taxes.

Issuing bonds is essentially the same thing as taking out a mortgage on a house.  You get a large lump sum of money up-front and then pay it back over a long period of time.  The city sets aside a portion of its property tax revenue to make these payments.  

Interim City Manager Scott Stiles said this in a memo to Mayor John Cranley and council members:

"As previously reported the debt service property tax millage was anticipated to decrease in 2017.  With the addition of the $20 million MLK/I-71 Interchange and funding the Riverfront Park, the millage will need to remain at 6.5 mills for a longer period of time, depending on the terms of the debt and interest rate."

City finance officials said earlier this year the millage rate was expected to decrease in 2017 because some older city debts were being retired or paid off.  

The $8 million will finish the majority of the west side of Smale Park from the Roebling Bridge to Elm Street and south of Mehring Way.  

City officials want that work completed before next year's Major League Baseball All Star Game.  A city memo said “the park is the front yard to the stadium and will be the location of many of the MLB required pre-events.  In addition, the area will be featured on national television during all the events.”

City administrators said the city’s capital funding has leveraged more than $40 million in private support and just recently leveraged $4.5 million from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The park was originally proposed in the 1990’s as part of a plan to build two new stadiums on the city’s riverfront.  The Banks project was also included in that plan.