Candidates On: Balancing the City's Budget

Sep 21, 2011 at 3:51 pm

As CityBeat did in the 2007 and 2009 election cycles, we’ve once again sent a questionnaire to the non-incumbent Cincinnati City Council candidates to get their reactions on a broad range of issues.

Nine of the 14 non-incumbents chose to answer our questions. Others either didn’t respond or couldn’t meet the deadline.

During the next few weeks, we will print the responses from the non-incumbents to a different topic each time.

Today’s question is, “With the city facing a potential $33 million deficit next year, what specific cuts and/or revenue enhancements would you propose or support to eliminate the shortfall?”—-

Mike Allen (Independent): “I would work to balance the budget by consolidation of city departments such as parks and recreation. We should also look into merging the Metropolitan Sewer District and the Cincinnati Water Works as has been suggested by Council Member Wendell Young. I believe that we need to increase managed competition and continue to eliminate waste and duplication in the city budget.”

Kevin Flynn (Charterite): “Council’s role should be to set policy and direction for our city and leave micromanagement to the administration. Policy should primarily be set by determining, through an open and transparent process, how the city will spend the $1.3 billion in annual revenue that our city has, where $33 million equals 2.5 percent. Although I will not be sworn in to serve on council until the first week of December 2011, I have already started looking at the General Operating Budget, the General Capital Budget, the budgets for Restricted Funds, and the Consolidated Plan Budget. Moneys are intertwined and spent and wasted without even a glance by council, which only focuses on the General Operating Budget.

“We can defer certain items and shift dollars to meet the immediate budgetary crisis without wholesale layoffs and depletion of services in 2012. We can and must eliminate duplication of services within our own departments. By centralizing back office functions such as I.T., Budget, and Purchasing, we can save significant money. Combine capital items, utilize personnel more efficiently, reach out to the community to partner on projects.”

Nicholas Hollan (Democrat): “The financial state of the city has been, and remains, a challenge. Save for public safety, the budget has been slashed and slashed again. The public safety budget has grown by 35 percent over the past decade while the budget for every other department has decreased by 28 percent. Budget cuts to public safety must remain on the table as an option. I would also consider ending the property tax rollback and would consider a monthly fee for trash collection.

“It is imperative to note that we will not cut our way through this crisis. The budget issues we face speak to the larger problem of a diminishing tax base that must be rejuvenated. To accomplish this, we need to work to get more of our residents, healthy, educated and trained in a profession which will ultimately lead to self sufficiency. Once this occurs, our tax revenue will once again be strong and it will allow us to continue investing in our community to encourage investment from outside business and residents.”

Patricia McCollum (Independent): “I would balance the budget by restructuring programs and services to cut cost instead of immediately alleviating programs. I would eliminate overtime, consolidate departments and services, reduce spending for duplicated administrations. To increase revenue, we should evaluate partnering with universities and its students for job training and retention of young professionals.”

Catherine Smith Mills (Republican): “In the immediate future, I agree with common sense cuts like those recommended by Councilman (Chris) Bortz and others to close a portion of the deficit. For example, budget gas prices for $3.71 (per gallon), the current market value, and not over $4. But we also need to pursue long-term savings that will lead to a structurally balanced budget. These types of savings can be found by doing an audit of city departments and also collaborating with the county to find areas where shared services make sense.”

Sandra Queen Noble (Independent): “The Hero And Shero Party stands for 'Helping Equal Rights' opportunity. It gives the public at voting booths the power to stop corruption. It's a zero tolerance party with the power to say no to evil, lessor evil and the status quo. Then the people will see that the deficit is paper money. Print it.”

Jason Riveiro (Democrat): “We should create a one-time fee for when banks foreclose on properties and a daily fee for blight violations. Also, we can reduce the supervisor/non-management employee ratio. Additionally, we can create efficiencies in professional services such as legal, audit, finance, etc.”

Chris Seelbach (Democrat): “In the last five years, some departments have seen 50 percent cuts while others have seen 50 percent growth. This disparity cannot continue as we lose nearly all state funding for future budgets. There can no longer be departments that escape cuts and reform — we are simply losing too much money. I support even handed cuts across all departments, no longer leaving large portions of our budget unscathed. We need to have frank conversations with department heads, union representatives and city employees to find greater efficiencies, and if necessary, negotiate short-term concessions to prevent further layoffs.

“I am against any increase in the sales, income or property taxes. I am open to considering a garbage fee, but only if it’s a 'pay as you throw.' This type of system encourages sustainability and less waste by charging more to those who don’t reuse and recycle (and thus throw away more) and less to those who both consume and throw away less. The fee would have a sliding scale with both a minimum and maximum and a flat fee for those who choose to opt out.”

P.G. Sittenfeld (Democrat): “While most candidates suggest either cutting basic services or raising taxes, I'm proud to have proposed creative cost efficiencies and revenue enhancements (that don't involve raising taxes) such as achieving savings by using Cincinnati Public Schools' community learning centers for the deployment of various services; boosting revenue by selling advertising (just as Metro does) on non-safety city fleet vehicles; and recycling public dollars by using qualified local companies for city services rather than sending jobs (and the revenue from those jobs) elsewhere.”