Largest Tax Levy in the History of Hamilton County--Vote Takes Place on March 17, 2020
Also: Meet Sheriff Candidate Charmaine McGuffey
Tonight’s important session of EmpowerU covers Sorta Issue 7, and the proposed sales tax increase that will appear on Hamilton County ballots during Ohio’s March 17 primary election. This proposal, put directly on the ballot by Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, will ask voters to raise the sales tax by 0.8 percent in order to increase funding for Cincinnati Metro bus service as well as for road and bridge improvements.
Sorta is currently funded at a rate of about $50 Million by the City of Cincinnati’s earnings tax. Issue 7, would make the City Earnings Tax be reduced from 2.1% to 1.8% and fund Sorta completely with a countywide sales tax levy. This levy would raise about $100 million a year for the busy system, plus another $30 million a year for roads and bridges, with the infrastructure portion of the sales tax. The levy would go for 25 years which would make this levy the largest levy ever, at a total of $3.20 billion (about 5 times the total cost of Paul Brown Stadium and The Great American Ballpark).
25% of the proceeds of the levy will be used for public infrastructure projects, like building or maintaining roads or bridges, 75% of the levy will provide general revenues for operating the Metro transportation system. Sorta hopes to add new bus routes to better align them with job centers in suburban Hamilton County. On major routes, there will be a bus every 15 minutes. Some buses will run 24 hours a day. More crosstown service and more weekend service will be added. Hamilton County’s Integrating Committee will oversee the spending of the infrastructure portion of the levy.
Sorta is governed by a 13-member volunteer citizens’ board of trustees. Currently, seven trustees are appointed by the City of Cincinnati and six are appointed by Hamilton County. The Hamilton County Integrating Committee is made up of nine representatives from the city and county.
Issues Involving the Sorta Sales Tax Increase:
- Should a “Quasi” unelected, volunteer board be allowed to be responsible for this much taxpayer money?
- Should Hamilton County be structurally in charge of the Sorta Board since this is a Hamilton County Levy?
- What happens if there is yet another disagreement between Hamilton County and the City of Cincinnati (MSD, Union Terminal, The Banks, The Stadiums) regarding Sorta operation and service?
- What happens if there is a problem with the levy? Are we stuck for 25 years? Do we have the ability to change directions? Can the levy be dropped?
- Why do we need an infrastructure levy when we currently pay tax to the state, and we just passed a Gasoline Tax increase?
- At 7.8% Hamilton County Sales Tax will be one of the highest in the state. Is this dangerous?
- What Governmental Agency will be responsible for overseeing Sorta’s finances?
- What is the role of the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce is lobbying for this large County Tax Levy?
- Why has the Hamilton County Republican Party not taken a position with respect to this Tax Levy?
Tonight, Brendon Cull who is the Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Cincinnati Regional Chamber and a Board Member of Sorta and Cam Hardy will present the information for the SORTA–Issue 7 Tax Levy. Cam Hardy will also be present. It is really through Cam Hardy’s hard work, representing the issues of bus riders county-wide that this Tax Levy and possible increase in service is presented. William Monnier (Bill) from the Cheviot Gazette will also join us tonight to discuss his opposition to the levy and a recent article he wrote about the levy. There will be plenty of time for your questions and comments about the levy.
Charmaine McGuffey will be joining us at about 8:05 PM after the Sorta Forum to give us a vision of her candidacy for Sheriff of Hamilton County. She is the endorsed Democratic candidate for Sheriff of Hamilton County. Charmaine is a retired Major, former Commander of Jail and Court Services, and a 33-year veteran of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office.
Brendon J. Cull
Brendon Cull is the Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. Prior to joining the Chamber, Cull was the Senior Director of Government Relations and Regulatory Affairs at The Kroger Co. From 2000-2005, Cull was the Legislative Director and Press Secretary for Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken.
Cull is member of the board of the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority and the Mercantile Library.
Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Cull graduated in 1999 from Xavier University with a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Communication. Cull lives in Clifton with his wife and daughters.
Born and raised in Cincinnati Ohio. Works at Frost, Brown and Todd law firm in Intellectual Property. President and Co-founder of the Better Bus Coalition. The Better Bus Coalition is a grassroots organization supporting investment in Hamilton County’s bus system. We mobilize riders, engage public and private entities, and activate the community to push for a revamped bus system that provides true mobility and economic viability for our region. Some of our projects include building benches to put at bus stops that had high ridership but no where for bus riders to sit. Another major project we did was create a bus plan based off what the community wanted to see out of a bus system. We took our message across the county and gathered feedback based off what people wanted. This is a true grassroots movement and we are proud of the work we have done and will continue to do to improve the quality of life for bus riders.
Bill has lived on the Westside of Cincinnati his entire life. He grew up in Delhi Township and graduated from Oak Hills High School in 2004. He furthered his education with Cincinnati State Community College majoring in Sales and Marketing in 2005. William founded a local publication station in Cheviot, Ohio called the Cheviot Gazette, which covers local news in the Westside of Cincinnati through a monthly printed edition as well as online.
Through the Cheviot Gazette William has promoted a wide assortment of local businesses and events. He believes captivating people’s attention will prompt the resident’s involvement within their communities. The Cheviot Gazette aims to provide honest local news where residents can engage in a number of issues through conversation and action, not divisiveness.
William is currently working on two books that are on track to be published by the end of 2020. Although he isn’t one to shy away from a challenge, enjoying his time with this son Lincoln is his top priority. “I’m always working, but I’m a father first, and Lincoln is the best boss I’ve ever worked for.”