City budget proposal: Cuts to neighborhoods and human services, but no closures or layoffs

City Manager Harry Black this morning presented his spending proposals for fiscal years 2018-2019, recommending ways to grapple with the city's $26 million tax revenue shortfall.

click to enlarge Cincinnati City Hall
Cincinnati City Hall

Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black this morning presented his $1.1 billion fiscal year 2018-2019 city budget proposal. You can pore through his suggestions for the city’s operating and capital budgets here.

The budget comes as the city faces a $26 million budget shortfall brought about by lower-than-expected tax receipts. Black asked all city departments except for police and fire to outline 10 percent cuts to their budgets. Nearly $9 million is cut from departmental budgets in Black's proposal, though those cuts don't close facilities or lead to layoffs.

Here are some takeaways on first glance.

The operating budget proposes across the board 25 percent cuts to outside agencies, including $1.15 million less to the city’s human services spending. The United Way-administered human services fund will get a $772,000 reduction. That spending has been a flash point with Cincinnati City Council in the past.

Among other human services organizations losing some funding: Controversial nonprofit The Center for Closing the Health Gap will get $250,000 less than last year, bringing its funding down to $750,000. Mayor John Cranley’s Hand Up Initiative will also see $62,500 in cuts, as will violence prevention programs.

In the neighborhood support and economic development sphere, the city’s community councils will see $88,000 less this year, cutting their funding to $265,000, and neighborhood business districts will get $129,000, a $43,000 reduction from last year. Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation would get $750,000 in operating support it didn’t get last year.

The city manager noted 3CDC will get $66,000 less for its operations on Fountain Square but that the organization put in a request for additional funding for other facilities, which Black granted.

“After reviewing all of what they do, I’m recommending an increase," Black said at a question and answer session this morning. "Those venues have become so popular."

click to enlarge Cuts and additions to neighborhoods, economic development and human services under the city manager's budget proposal
Cuts and additions to neighborhoods, economic development and human services under the city manager's budget proposal

Under Black's budget, non-union city employees wouldn't see the 4 percent merit raises Council approved for them, but would see a 1 percent cost of living increase. Many unionized employees, including police and firefighters, will see 5 percent raises this year and next and a 4 percent raise in 2019 thanks to moves made by Mayor John Cranley outside the usual contract negotiation process. Those raises will cost the city $20 million over three years. The raises sparked a big fight in City Council, though Council members eventually passed Cranley's plan.

Revenues in the operating budget would be increased under the proposal by bumping parking tickets up from $45 to $60, generating an estimated extra $900,000, and boosting parking meter rates would generate an estimated $640,000.

The capital budget includes $10 million for a new District 5 police station — which has received numerous complaints over health concerns in recent years — and about $500,000 in design and planning funds for the Western Hills Viaduct replacement.

Public safety — police and fire — represent the largest portion of the operating budget at more than $261 million next year — an $8 million increase over this year. Non-public safety expenditures in the operating budget account for $116.7 million. Those expenditures saw a $600,000 increase.

“All cities are seeing large expenditures going to public safety,” Black said. “That’s something all cities are grappling with.”

Police recruit classes would be frozen for the next six months under Black's plan. That move will save $2.3 million.

Black said the budget is the best the city can do given unforeseen revenue shortfalls from lower than expected earnings tax receipts.He warned that the current fiscal situation the city found itself in put it "within millimeters" of layoffs and facility closures. 

“It’s a very challenging budget,” Black said. “We’re not recommending any closing of facilities, we’re not recommending furloughs, we’re not recommending layoffs.”

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