Hamilton County, Ohio, is now projecting that its stadium fund will run a $13.2 million deficit for the year 2010 if tax revenues dip by a mere two percent, an amount that might be conservative in light of hard times. Commissioners are hoping to get concessions from the Cincinnati Reds and Bengals [ed. note: Good luck with that], and/or cuts from the Cincinnati Public Schools to close the gap.
Long before Bernie Madoff, Hamilton County Commissioners and insiders in the Cincinnati area knew that a day of reckoning would come as bills for the two stadiums came due. In 2004, County Commissioner Phil Heimlich called the stadium debt a “fiscal time bomb,” suggesting service cuts may be needed in the future.
Since schools have a tougher time threatening to relocate, the smart money on who will make the most concessions might be placed on education. The county could roll back property tax relief, but the commissioners argue that would be “the last option they will consider.”
One possible way to close the gap might be to offer naming rights to someone for the Bengals’ stadium, something that Bengals owner Mike Brown bypassed so that he could put his Dad’s name on the new facility. Betting that the taxpayers of Hamilton County will be able to benefit from naming rights revenue might be as unwise as betting on Cincinnati Reds games if you were a local legend.