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Congratulations to our 2019 Spencer Award Winners!

On May 21, the Cincinnatus Association will present the Donald and Marian Spencer Spirit of America Awards honoring six Cincinnati area businesses and nonprofits for promoting diversity and inclusion.Those organzations are: 

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
Ohio Justice & Policy Center
The Reds Community Fund
Small For-Profit
The Model Group
Large For-Profit

The awards dinner will be Tuesday, May 21, 2019 at 6 pm at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza, 35 W. Fifth Street, Cincinnati. Dinner tickets and sponsorships are still available. 

MORE: Register here to attend the award ceremony. Also please consider sponsoring the event. Click here for information on sponsor levels.

The Spencer Awards are named after Cincinnati’s “First Couple of Civil Rights” to celebrate their achievements in civil rights. Though Mr. Spencer died in 2010 – before the inception of the awards – Mrs. Spencer, who is in her late 90s, has participated in the dinner each year – either in person or on the phone.

The awards honor nonprofits and businesses who exhibit conspicuous and enduring contributions to promoting greater inclusion and diversity in the community.

For more information, read the press release for this event.


To see previous articles, visit our Spotlight Archive.



Spencer Awards

Tuesday, May 21, 2019
6:00 PM
Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza
Click Here to Register

June Member Meeting

Tuesday, June 11, 2019
Location TBD 
Registration Link Coming Soon



160815 Childrens Services Levy


Resolution -- That the Cincinnatus Association endorse the Hamilton County Children’s Services levy, Issue _, to fund services needed by children suffering abuse or neglect.


 The levy funds are used by the Children’s Services Division (CSD) of the County’s Department of Jobs & Family Services (JFS) to support services for some of the County’s most vulnerable children who have experienced mental illness, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect.  About 2200 such children were helped in 2015.

 The services paid for by the levy are mandated by state or federal law.  The state provides no money for such services. The levy leverages a match of some federal funds.

 This is a straight renewal of a levy in place during 2011-16 which we endorsed in 2011.  It will cost the owner of $100,000 property about $95 per year; since the rate will remain at 2.77 mills, it will not increase taxes.  The levy has raised about $40 million per year, but less than $37 million in 2015.


 The County’s Tax Levy Review Committee (TLRC) found that the need for these services is great and is increasing due to parental opioid addiction and the trauma that too many children suffer prior to contact with CSD. 

 CSD has struggled in recent years with high staff turnover resulting in larger workloads.  Notwithstanding significant budget and staff cuts in the last decade, an outside expert review of CSD services conducted for the TLRC found that they remain effective and efficient, and the TLRC concluded that JFS has managed its finances quite well.

 CSD may in the next five years lose some federal funds and it could be hurt by changes in Medicaid payments for Juvenile Court-mandated treatments.  Thus, the County may need to revisit the adequacy of funding for these services before the levy ends.

 JFS was forced to operate in a very lean manner in recent years as it awaited conclusion of a federal audit which could have created a liability over $100 million, and it created a large reserve to meet that potential liability.  Fortunately, the audit claim was recently settled for $22.5 million.  JFS had a levy fund carryover of $123 million at the end of FY2015, but the TLRC concluded that it would be necessary to spend down the remaining surplus over the next five-year levy cycle in order to improve services, meet increased needs and costs, and make up for the possible loss of other revenues.

Programs receiving levy funds include: mental health treatment; domestic violence counseling; substance abuse counseling; parenting classes; intensive family services; in-home services; child care; medical assistance; foster care and adoption; kinship care; and transportation.  Organizations receiving funds include: Juvenile Court; the Mental Health Board; and private human service agencies that help children, such as Lighthouse Youth Services, Beech Acres Parenting Center, and Talbert House.

Arguments for Endorsement:

·         The services are mandated and needed.  They cannot be funded with County general revenue funds.  Children will suffer great harm if the levy fails.

·         The services are delivered in a cost-efficient yet effective manner.

·         Because it is a simple renewal levy, there will be no increase in taxes paid by property owners.

·         Without the levy, federal matching funds will be lost, further damaging services.

 Arguments Against Endorsement:

  • Some argue that the County has cut staff and suffered staff retention problems to the extent that services have been harmed and more money is needed.
  • Others argue that local residents are heavily burdened by high property taxes; this levy accumulated a large surplus over the last five-year cycle, proving that it could be reduced without affecting the needed level of service.

 We are not aware of any organized opposition to this tax levy.

 Recommendation: The Excellence in Government Panel and Executive Committee recommend that the Cincinnatus Association endorse Issue _.

160829 CPS Preschool Promise Levy

Information for Cincinnatus Membership on the

Cincinnati Public School/Pre-School Promise Tax Levy


Overview of the levy

On November 8, 2016 voters in the Cincinnati Public School District will be voting on a 5 year 7.93 mill property tax levy. The levy will provide a total of $48 million of which $15 million will be for the expansion of quality preschool through CPS and community providers. The $33 million for CPS k-12 will be used for the approximately 12% increase in enrollment, technology, intense focus on the 16 poorest performing schools and for career development. The levy will cost tax payers $277 per $100,000 of assessed valuation. A local organization, COAST, has announced its opposition to the levy.

Requested endorsement

Both the Cincinnatus Association Education Panel and the Executive Committee have recommended endorsement of the levy. At the September 13th general membership meeting presentations in support and in opposition to the levy will be made. The membership will vote on its endorsement at that meeting.

Information in support of the levy

·         Cincinnati Public Schools has had no new money for 8 years. The district needs additional funds for:

o   An 11-12% increase in enrollment with no additional funds to support the increase

o   Inflation: Salaries and other costs have increased

o   Technology: The district is lacking in the needed technology for students in today’s classroom

o   Focus on 16 poorest performing schools: An intense focus is planned to substantially improve performance

·         School District is showing real progress

o   Highest performing urban district in state

o   Highest performing high school and elementary school in state

o   Graduation rate increasing

o   Higher ACT Scores

o   Growth in Advanced Placement courses

o   Targeted low performing schools are improving significantly

·         District has lost nearly $70 million in state funding over the past several years

·         Accountability of District finances found to be very sound by Efficiency Review Committee made up of leading business and foundation executives

·         Pre-School will be universal throughout the Cincinnati Public School District

o   Rand Corporation study shows $4 return for every $1 spent on quality pre-school

o   Study further shows many examples in other cities of quality pre-school providing substantial improvements in school readiness for children

o   Study also shows that quality preschool results in lower rates of special education use, reduced grade repetition and higher graduation rates

o   Focus will be 3 & 4 year old children below 200% of poverty

o   Currently over 40% of students in district are not prepared for kindergarten

o   Will be universal pre-school including independent providers as well as Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS)

o   There will be a ”trusted entity”(an existing large non-profit) selected to oversee funds provided to community providers other than CPS

o   All providers will be 3 star (state quality rating) rated or higher

·         Levy has broad support (Cincinnati Business Committee, Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce, AFL-CIO, AMOS, many other community organizations)

Information in opposition to the levy

·         Local organization, COAST, announced opposition based on two factors: 1) Levy too high and      2) Use of the money is vague. So far no explanation of either.

·         Other possible reasons to oppose and information in response:

o   Property taxes already too high, they need to fund schools another way. Response: Ohio Supreme Court has found current method of school financing is unconstitutional 3 times; state legislature has done nothing to change from dependence on property taxes. Also, state funds for public education have been reduced over past several years.

o   Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) are not performing well. Response: CPS is the highest performing urban public school system in state and has shown consistent improvement.

o   7.93 mills is too much, should get by with less: Response: Audit done by business community shows CPS finances are used efficiently and it will have large deficit if it doesn’t get more funds.


o   Studies have shown that Head Start pre-school gains don’t last. Response: In CPS with high quality preschool. Children prepared for kindergarten has risen from 43% to nearly 60% and has continued on to improvement in 3rd grade reading scores.

160815 Great Parks Levy


Resolution -- That the Cincinnatus Association endorse the Great Parks of Hamilton County levy, Issue _, to fund continued management and protection of Hamilton County Parks.


Great Parks of Hamilton County operates 17,000 acres of parkland, including Sharon Woods, Winton Woods, and Miami Whitewater Forest among dozens of other parks, as well as nearly 80 miles of trails, and 40 linear miles of street and river shoreline. If passed this levy will allow Great Parks to continue offering its current level of services and programs including summer concerts and kid-friendly naturalist and fitness programs.


This is a 10 year 1 mill levy to replace the current 15 year1 mill levy that expires at the end of 2017. If passed this levy would rescind and replace the current one.

  The levy will raise roughly $18.3 million per year for the next ten years and will cost the owner of $100,000 property $35 per year for 10 years, an increase of $9.45 from the current levy.


Some of the projects deemed crucial by park leadership and that would be funded by the levy include:

·        Dredging Sharon Lake at Sharon Woods (not done since 1989) to improve water quality and environment

·        Leading the region in planning for current and future bike trails and upgrading its own bike and hike trails, including repaving the Sharon Woods Harbor Loop Trail

·        Protecting, preserving, and restoring natural resources and wildlife habitat, including honeysuckle removal and the replanting of trees in areas decimated by the emerald ash borer

·        Upgrading playgrounds including those at Winton Woods Harbor

·        Improving accessibility for people with disabilities to facilities across the park, including Lakeside Lodge at Sharon Woods

·        Fixing broken and outdated roadways, parking lots, bridges, dams and building, including paving Lake Isabella Road and parking lot


The levy request would cover about 55% of operating costs and 60% of capital projects deemed necessary for completion over the next decade; additional funds supplementing the levy need to be generated from parks entrance fees, government grants and private donations. As an example of governmental funding Great Parks recently applied for nearly $2.6 million in federal assistance to complete the “final mile” of the Little Miami Scenic Trail that would connect the trail to downtown Cincinnati.


Effective 1/1/2017 Great Parks will increase park admission from $3 to $5 for a day pass and $10 to $14 for an annual pass for non-Hamilton County residents


Park leaders were considering a much larger levy scenarios including one that would have nearly doubled current tax rates but commissioners decided against those proposals believing the current climate for taxes would make support difficult. 


Arguments for Endorsement:

·         The Great Parks of Hamilton County are a community treasure that provide extensive recreational, educational, and environmental value. They are particularly focused on programming for children.

·         This a conservative request, a replacement levy that will result in very modest tax increase for property owners

·         Great Parks of Hamilton County delivers services in a cost efficient manner and has demonstrated itself to be good stewards of public and private funds, and an entrepreneurial approach to find additional funding

·         If the levy fails, it would severely affect Great Parks ability to operate, resulting in severe staff cuts and potential closures of parts of the park system

 Arguments Against Endorsement:

·         Some argue that Hamilton County residents are already heavily burdened by high property taxes and that there are other higher priority needs. 

 We are not aware of any organized opposition to this tax levy.

 Recommendation: The Excellence in Government Panel and Executive Committee recommend that the Cincinnatus Association endorse Issue_. 

Spencer Awards

2019 Donald and Marian Spencer "Spirit of America" Awards
Fifth Annual Awards, Celebration, & Banquet
Tuesday, May 21, 2019
6:00 pm
Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza
35 W. 5th St., Cincinnati, OH 45202

Purchase your tickets today  


The Cincinnatus Association is proud to honor these organizations that have: 1) intentionally shown a commitment to inclusion, diversity, equity, justice and basic human rights; and 2) delivered “conspicuous and enduring” contributions that have created greater inclusion and diversity in our community and/or impacted equity, justice and human rights issues, thus improving the quality of life for citizens.


Become a sponsor today

Sponsorship Level


Donate Today


2019 Sponsorship Levels


CHAMPION:   $3,000 

  • Prime seating at the Spencer Awards Banquet (2 tables of 10)
  • Acknowledgement in all materials distributed & displayed
  • Recognition as a sponsor on the Cincinnatus webpage
  • One page in the Event Program
  • Special recognition from the event podium as a main sponsor
  • Recognition in press releases and news coverage


BENEFACTOR:   $1,500 

  • Prime seating at the Spencer Awards Banquet (1 table of 10)
  • Acknowledgement in all materials distributed & displayed
  • Recognition as a sponsor on the Cincinnatus webpage
  • Half-page in the Event Program
  • Recognition from the event podium


ADVOCATE:   $1,000 

  • Preferred seating at the Spencer Awards Banquet (1 table of 10)
  • Acknowledgement in all materials distributed & displayed
  • Recognition as a sponsor on the Cincinnatus webpage
  • Quarter-page in the Event Program



  • Table of 10 seats at the Spencer Awards Banquet
  • Acknowledgement in the Event Program


FRIEND:   $250 

  • 2 tickets to the Spencer Awards Banquet
  • Acknowledgement in the Event Program



  • 1 ticket to the Spencer Awards Banquet


Sponsorship is generally tax deductible to the extent it exceeds the value of the dinners provided at the banquet.



Spencer Award History




National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
Ohio Justice & Policy Center
The Reds Community Fund

Small For-Profit

The Model Group

Large For-Profit




For more information, read the press release for this event.


Spencer Award History



Non-profit Job Training Organization

City Gospel Mission

Venice on Vine / Power Inspires Progress "PIP"

Non-profit Support Services Organization

Freestore Foodbank

Urban Minority Alcohol and Drug Abuse Outreach Programs

For-profit Organization

Nehemiah Manufacturing, Inc.


Non-profit Job Training Organization

Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio

Non-profit Support Services Organization

Su Casa Hispanic Center of Cincinnati

For-profit Organization

Al. Neyer

Click here to view the 2017 Spencer Award News Release




Dr. Bleuzette Marshall


Innocence Project







Willie Carden


Goodwill Industries