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Last Meeting Sets Stage for Next Meeting at Covington City Hall

A great deal of last week's Covington City Commission meeting will be back on the agenda Tuesday. Several items were only presented as a "first reading" and require two such readings before the city's legislative body can vote on them. Here is what to look for at the next meeting Tuesday:

Covington Economic Development Authority

The city will move to create this entity as part of its effort to have a "tax increment finance (TIF) district". The city describes the district as a financing and development tool that allows cities to to capture future increases in property and other taxes generated by new development within a specified area. Assistant City Manager Larisa Sims presented the plan last week and showed a map of the proposed district that encompasses much of Downtown Covington, north of Thirteenth Street, east of I-75 to the Licking River. The TIF district will be used to finance such projects as the Hotel Covington. "The hotel project is dependent on economic development tools like this," said Mayor Chuck Scheper. "In a sense, you're playing with house money."

The City of Chicago also uses a TIF District for projects and describes its program like this: "Tax Increment Financing is a special funding tool used by the City of Chicago to promote public and private investment across the city. Funds are used to build and repair roads and infrastructure, clean polluted land and put vacant properties back to productive use, usually in conjunction with private development projects. Funds are generated by growth in the Equalized Assessed Valuation (EAV) of properties within a designated district over a period of 23 years. Funding levels for specific projects are coordinated with area plans and goals. When an area is declared a TIF district, the amount of property tax the area generates is set as a base EAV amount. As property values increase, all property tax growth above that amount can be used to fund redevelopment projects within the district. The increase, or increment, can be used to pay back bonds issued to pay upfront costs, or can be used on a pay-as-you-go basis for individual projects. At the conclusion of the 23-year period, the increase in revenue over the base amount is distributed annually among the seven taxing bodies in the city that are based on property values." That city also uses its website to allow citizens to study its TIF plans, annual reports, and redevelopment news.

Covington's Economic Development Authority will have a board consisting of no less than three and no more than five members with staggered four-year terms. Four members will be appointed to the inaugural board: Mayor Chuck Scheper, Assistant City Manager Larisa Sims, Kenton County Judge-Executive Steve Arlinghaus, and Jeanne Schroer, executive director of the Catalytic Development Fund of Northern Kentucky.

City to issue bonds, redirect cash to focus on infrastructure improvements

Covington Finance Director Bob Due explained that the budget for the current fiscal year will be altered to redirect more funds into capital improvements. Originally, $6.215 million had been appropriated for infrastructure needs but the amount would be increased to $7.78 million. Projects slated to receive attention: $400,000 for City Hall relocation; $175,000 for Mainstrasse parking meters; $500,000 for sports complex/waterpark repairs; $200,000 for Licking River Greenway & Trails second phase; $2.5 million for economic development projects; $200,000 for property acquisitions; $867,000 for vehicle fleets; $875,000 for paving projects; $130,305 for Wayman Branch culvert; $50,000 for sidewalk program; $500,000 for demolition/rehab of city-owned properties; $145,000 for levee evaluations and repairs; $140,000 for basin & drainage issues; $201,6000 for Fidelity Road payment; $446,600 for streetscape landscaping projects; and $450,000 for new financial management/human resources office suite (computer program). It was noted at Tuesday's meeting that the City is still using a computer program from the late 1990s for its financial systems.

The $7.78 million total is from the combined figures of $375,870 carried forward from previous year, $396,600 from the state, $540,153 from municipal road aid (gas tax), $600,000 from community development block grants (federal), $65,153 from the Sanitation District, $2 million from the general fund, and $3.8 million financed through debt service.

"Our infrastructure inventory has been lagging," Mayor Chuck Scheper said. "We're looking at ways we can accelorate the work." The city will seek to have a bond issued through the Kentucky Bond Corporation in the amount of $15 million to be paid off over twenty-five years. The annual debt service would be $1 million. The city claims that no additional debt will be accumulated through the bond. Up to $10 million will be dedicated to streets and roads with the remainder going toward economic development opportunities some of which include $3 million in capital improvements to Devou Park which may include a reconstructed clubhouse for the golf course. Due explained that the interest rate would be 3.25 percent. "This is a unique opportunity for the city to begin to address some of its infrastructure issues," Due said.

911 charge on phone bills will go away

Now that Kenton County has taken over 911 emergency dispatch services for the City of Covington, the city's monthly enhanced 911 system charge is no longer necessary. The County will now be the billing agent for the fees associated with dispatch. Currently the plan calls for an $85 annual fee per parcels of property owned after a $6 monthly fee on energy bills was hung up in two different tie votes at the Kenton County Fiscal Court. Any fees received by the city from September 30, when Covington's dispatch center went away, through the end of the year, will be remitted to the county. The property tax fees for dispatch will begin appearing on county bills effective January 1.

City to lower payroll tax

One of Mayor Scheper's announced goals when he took office was to lower the city's payroll tax and now with just weeks left in his term, it looks as though that will happen, modest though it is. The payroll tax rate will be lowered from 2.5% to 2.45%. "This was part of the ten-point plan to attract businesses to the city," Scheper said. "We need to continue to find ways to lower the payroll tax rate. Hopefully future commissions will continue this process."

Code Enforcement board to have power of nuisance authority

An ordinance will be considered that would change the name of the code enforcement department to community services division and would also grant the city better positioning in the order of liens on nuisance properties. The city would be ahead of several other entities in collecting money from foreclosed properties.

Also on the agenda:

  • Aaron Wolfe-Bertling, executive director of the Housing Authority of Covington, will present that organization's ten-year plan
  • Thirteenth Street between Madison Avenue and Wood Street will be changed from one-way to two-way traffic to facilitate vehicles using the Walgreens that will be developed at that corner
  • Police Chief Spike Jones will present on the two officers recently recognized for heroism and service by the Covington Rotary Club
  • Covington Neighborhood Collaborative President Bill Wells will present on the organization's new 2013 calendar

Written by Michael Monks, Editor & Publisher of The River City News

PHOTO: Covington City Commission/RCN file