Cincinnati Council is expected to vote Wednesday to increase at least one part of the city's property tax bill to pay for some major projects approved by the previous council. But the portion for operating expenses will stay the same.
The Budget and Finance Committee voted on the items Monday.
Hiking the debt service millage from 6.5 mills to 7.5 mills would mean a $31 annual property tax increase per $100,000 of residential property value.
The hike would provide $33 million for the Western Hills Viaduct replacement project, matching a similar amount pledged by Hamilton County. Another $17 million would be used by the fire department to build a new training facility and add women's restrooms and locker rooms to city fire stations that currently do not have them.
Council Member Tamaya Dennard voted in favor of the increase.
"I'm very hard pressed to use our homeowners as ATMs," Dennard said. "But these are very urgent projects and there's a... sense of now on these things. Raising people's property taxes is something I don't take lightly as some who does support this."
Council member P.G. Sittenfeld also approved increasing the debt service millage rate. He said it is about choices.
"The choice is kick the can and say, 'sorry west side, sorry firefighters' or to do a little bit better than just saying 'we're sorry you know come talk to us in five years,'" Sittenfeld said. "It's about making good on the promise that all of us made to the west side, it's about supporting our brave first responders."
Council Member Amy Murray cast one of two votes against the increase. She said council should look other places for viaduct funding.
"I think we need to go back to our capital budget and look and see if it's $11 million in 2021, that's three years away," Murray said. "Can we come up with that money in another way through our capital budget rather than putting this burden on taxpayers right now."
City financial advisors told the council not increasing the debt service millage while adding to the city's debt could put the city "out of compliances" with its borrowing policies and possibly negatively affect the city's bond ratings.
Meanwhile, the committee rejected the city manager's proposal to increase the city's operating tax millage to 6.1 mills in the city charter. That would have meant a $17 annual property tax increase per $100,000 of residential property value.
Instead the committee approved an operating millage based on fixing the operating property tax revenue at $28.988 million consistent with the current city council policy of rolling back the millage rate to generate a consistent revenue amount.
The city is required to submit a tentative tax budget with property tax rates to the Hamilton County Auditor's office by January 20.