Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley today rolled out his proposals for the city's $1.6 billion biennial budget.
As anticipated, the mayor's spending plan mostly reverses cuts in city funding in City Manager Patrick Duhaney's budget to outside social service, neighborhood and business groups.
Cranley's proposal also adds $350,000 to convert the Shelterhouse winter shelter for those in need to year-round operation and $800,000 for a $5 million public-private partnership designed to support those experiencing poverty called Project LIFT.
Cranley's proposal reinstates support for a needle exchange program, the Center for Addiction Treatment, COMPASS (an immigration welcoming service through the city's chamber of commerce), the African American Chamber of Commerce, tech and business incubators, Cincinnati Neighborhood Games, Invest in Neighborhoods, Neighborhood Business Districts, a summer youth jobs initiative, a violence prevention plan overseen by United Way and a small sum for the Corporation for Findlay Market, which were all zeroed out in Duhaney's budget proposal, among others.
One notable exception to the funding reversal: The Center for Closing the Health Gap, a nonprofit run by one-time Cranley ally and former Cincinnati mayor Dwight Tillery. Duhaney and Cranley suggested cutting the Health Gap last year, but council voted later to add $692,000 in funding for the minority health organization.
Cranley's proposal also does not restore eight of nine city positions Duhaney recommended eliminating, including Department of Environment and Sustainability Director Larry Falkin's position. Some members of Cincinnati City Council may propose preserving Falkin's job as they introduce their amendments to the budget.
Duhaney has said that employees whose jobs are eliminated will be moved to other positions, though pay cuts would be involved in some cases.
Cranley says the money for the additions in his budget proposal will come from a few sources on the operating side of the budget:
• Moving $600,000 in the city's recently created affordable housing trust fund from the operating to capital budget, freeing up money to spend on the operations side.
• A $1.9 million boost in funding from Ohio's local government fund, which is in the state's budget the General Assembly is negotiating now. It's a relatively small increase — as recently as 2011, the city was receiving more than $40 million from the state.
• $400,000 gleaned by eliminating more vacant positions in various city departments.
• At least $250,000 in revenue gained by leasing out city-owned land along I-71 and I-75 to billboard companies. Cranley said proceeds from those leases could climb to as much as $500,000 a year.
On the capital side of the budget, Cranley would cut:
• $250,000 the city would spend to boost commercial and retail opportunities.
• $186,000 earmarked for developing neighborhood transportation strategies.
• $325,000 for traffic signal infrastructure.
Cranley touted the budget as structurally balanced and highlighted the $4.8 million going to the city's United Way-administered Human Services Fund — up from $4 million last year. He also praised Duhaney's efforts in adding employees and funding to the city's Public Services Department, which is responsible for trash pickup, road maintenance and other services.
The mayor focused mostly on poverty reduction initiatives during an event introducing his budget suggestions at Shelterhouse's David and Rebecca Barron Center for Men in Queensgate. But he also said that some changes are beyond the city's control.
"The two biggest things that would change the direction on these issues is if we had a higher minimum wage that was actually a living wage and an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit," Cranley said. "We don't control those things. Those are federal things."