Cincinnati, Ohio - Hamilton County Commissioners approved a $222,787,843 Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) 2021 Operating Budget today by unanimous vote. Commissioners also unanimously approved an MSD Capital Improvement Program for 2021-2025 totaling $123,355,800. The County held hearings on MSD's proposed budget on December 3 and 10, but did not share the final budget up for a vote with the public until the public meeting began today. CUFA is awaiting documents from the County detailing what changes were made to MSD's original proposal.
The highlight: for the sixth consecutive year, there will be no new sewer rate increases.
At last week's MSD budget hearing, CUFA submitted comments (download our full written comments here) and testimonials (watch the full hearing here) from members advocating for changes to MSD's proposed budget to:
- Include senior renters that pay their water and sewer bill in the current customer assistance discount program for senior homeowners;
- Implement a temporary program to forgive back sewer bills not paid due to COVID-related hardship (similar to the Forgiveness Program that Greater Cincinnati Water Works is doing with water and storm water fees);
- Require meaningful public engagement steps be outlined for new projects before funding approval;
- Eliminate any proposed program that would require homeowners to take on financial responsibility for the prevention of sewer backups caused by a lack of sewer capacity; and
- Include projects where neighborhoods have been severely and repeatedly plagued by sewer backups, such as Bond Hill and the westside neighborhoods of Covedale and Green Township.
CUFA also requested that there be no further delay in buying out the homes along Muddy Creek Road that have had repeated, extreme sewer backups. The County committed to buying out the homes in 2017, but didn't approve funding until the end of 2019. During 2020, delays in additional federal and state funding has been MSD's reasoning for allowing the buyouts to drag on for yet another year, despite being required under a federal Consent Decree. Meanwhile, people like Robert Buckner and his wife are terrified every time it rains.
None of the CUFA recommended changes were made to the budgets approved today, and there is no timeline for the buyouts of Muddy Creek Rd. homes.
Here are the County resolutions approving the budgets: