Cincinnati City Council members submit potential budget tweaks

City council will consider a number of ordinances that could add funding to human services and tech incubators, help complete the Central Parkway bike lane, add sanitation workers and more

Jun 20, 2018 at 6:16 pm
click to enlarge Cincinnati City Hall - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
Cincinnati City Hall

With time ticking down to the June 30 end of the fiscal year, members of Cincinnati City Council today filed their requests for changes to Mayor John Cranley and acting City Manager Patrick Duhaney's Fiscal Year 2019 budgets.

Among the key asks in various versions of council's proposals: reversal of cuts to human services funding, bike infrastructure, tech and minority business incubators and other city programs.

Some Democrats on council are expected to make another proposal tomorrow: a hike on the city's admissions tax to pay for boosts to human services.

On the budget's operating side, council members have a number of suggested changes. Council members Greg Landsman and Tamaya Dennard propose the following shifts, among others, totaling $3.9 million:

• Ten new hires at the city's sanitation department at a cost of $650,000

• Restoration of cuts to the Center for Closing the Health Gap at $750,000

• Restore human services funding at a cost of $790,000

• Provide $65,000 for the city's winter shelter

• $500,000 to Cintrifuse and Cincytech

• $400,000 for low-income home repairs

• Elimination of a proposal that would raise $400,000 by booting illegally parked cars

That spending is offset by a number of measures, including:

• Delay Cincinnati's police recruit class by six months, saving $1.2 million

• Boost the city's building and inspections fees to 2.5 percent to raise $400,000

• Raise the city's commercial waste fees to 5 percent to raise $1 million.

An earlier version of Landsman and Dennard's motion included a proposal to raise the city's admissions tax from 3 to 5 percent, which would require a charter amendment approved by six members of council followed by voter approval in November. Council members David Mann and P.G. Sittenfeld are expected to unveil a similar proposal tomorrow. The move would raise about $3.6 million. $3 million would go toward human services, the rest to community councils and community development corporations.

Councilman Jeff Pastor suggested providing $250,000 each to Cintrifuse and Cincytech in his budget proposal via transfer from another fund that is specified by number but not by name. Pastor would also move $470,000 from the city's United Way vetting process for council to divvy up. Pastor's ordinance directs the city to spend $100,000 of that new fund on the Center for Addiction Treatment, which was left out of this year's budget.

Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld also wants to fund CAT, but would do so by ending the city's $96,000-a-year contract with state lobbyists. The city would still be on the hook for one month of that contract at $8,000, leaving $88,000 for CAT. Dennard and Landsman suggest a similar funding mechanism in their proposal.

Council members David Mann, Chris Seelbach and Wendell Young all suggested boosting human services funding to 1 percent in their operating budget proposals as well. Mann's roughly $1 million in changes to the mayor's proposed budget would provide $100,000 in funding for CAT via a one-time swap from the city's capital budget to the operating budget and would provide $45,000 for the winter shelter. Seelbach and Young's $1.5 million proposal would give $50,000 to the shelter as well as restoring cuts to city funding for community councils and community development corporations.

On the capital side, a proposal from council members Seelbach, Mann, Young and Landsman would make the following changes, among others:

• $200,000 for an expansion of Red Bike

• A $125,000 local match for a federal grant to complete the Central Parkway bike lane

• $125,000 in funding restoration to the Neighborhood Business District Improvement Program to help the Greater Cincinnati Redevelopment Authority renovate the Regal Theatre in the West End.

• $140,000 in funding restoration to the city's bike transportation plan

• $100,000 for maintenance of the city's hillside steps

The ordinance suggests finding the money for those and other priorities via unspent funds from past fiscal years elsewhere in the capital budget, including unspent money set aside for Bloc Ministries in 2017, and by providing funding stipulated in Cranley's budget for the renovation of a Masonic lodge in Price Hill in phases.

The spending on the bike lane is likely to be controversial. Cranley has been a staunch opponent of bike lanes, preferring off-road trails instead. When asked about the lack of funding for the Central Parkway bike lane, the mayor's spokesperson told WCPO that the lane is dangerous and that no one uses it.

Council will likely move those ordinances through committee early next week before a final vote Wednesday. Special sessions are set aside for Thursday and Friday as well in case council can't agree on a final budget during their usual weekly meeting.