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Commissioners put 5 year tax hike on ballot
CINCINNATI (Joe Webb) -- Plans to raise the sales tax to repair two of Cincinnati's most iconic buildings fell apart Wednesday.
Hamilton county commissioners decided to put an issue the ballot but only to fix Union Terminal, not Music Hall. Voters will get a chance in November to raise the sales tax a quarter cent. The plan will be to raise $170 million over five years to restore the Museum Center at Union Terminal.
The original proposal for a 14 year hike to raise $330 million and fix both iconic buildings got shot down. An overflow crowd of supporters came to the county commission meeting, knowing August 6 was the deadline day to get the issue on the ballot.
Supporters sweetened the pot for commissioners with a new plan that cut the tax bite by $30 million. They even piped in a phone plea from Bob McDonald in Washington. He left the project to become the secretary of Veterans Affairs.
It all fell on deaf ears. Commissioner Chris Monzel said the plan didn't make fiscal sense. He unveiled the five-year plan that cut Music Hall out of the picture. Monzel and Commissioner Greg Hartmann voted for it and language was sent to the board of elections to get it on the ballot.
Supporters booed the vote.
Even the people who will get the $170 million were shocked, disappointed and skeptical.
"I don't think there's a professional consultant or professional county administrator that will say he has any idea how this plan works," said Douglass McDonald, Museum Center CEO.
When asked if they can lend their support to getting the vote out, Museum Center Board Chairperson Francie Hiltz said, "Until we know the details I don't think we can support anything right now. We have to dig in and see what the details are."
The cultural facilities task force spent upward of 5,000 hours analyzing the two buildings' needs, raising private money and negotiating historic tax credits for the project that would have included both buildings. Monzel's plan was hatched pretty quickly.
There are a lot of questions hanging out there, including political support for the ballot issue and private fundraising commitments. Music Hall supporters said they will meet Thursday and regroup. They said Wednesday was a major setback but they will continue to fight for the money to repair the landmark.
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