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Cincinnati City Manager Lays Out $1.2 Billion Budget Plan

harry black
Tana Weingartner
City Manager nominee Harry Black

Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black laid out a $1.2 billion all-funds operating budget for the city for fiscal year 2017 Thursday that he says is structurally balanced – mainly because the city's revenue is expected to increase.

It includes a general fund operating budget of about $388 million.

"The situation of city government is fundamentally strong,'' Black said in a briefing with reporters Thursday morning. "There is nothing extraordinary in this budget, just basic changes in terms of financial management."

With cuts and enhanced revenues, Black's budget proposal closes, what at one time was an estimated $13.9 million budget gap.

There are no lay-offs of city employees in the Black budget plan.

Black also proposed an all-funds capital budget of $466.4 million.

Black's proposed budget goes to Mayor John Cranley, who will have 14 days to review it and make whatever changes he believes are necessary before sending it on to City Council.

Council must approve a new city budget by June 30.

City officials say a study by the University of Cincinnati is projecting a 3.3 percent increase in city revenue from the earnings tax in the new fiscal year – about half a percent more than originally expected.

The earnings tax makes up about 71 percent of the city's general fund revenue.

Included in Black's budget proposal are:

-        $4 million in funding for park maintenance and construction of a marina at Smale Riverfront Park.

-        One new recruit class that will train 40 new firefighters and one police recruit class that will graduate 30 police officers in June 2017 – although the fire and police unions had said they need two classes. A recruit class of 51 new police officers is set to graduate in July. 

-        Full funding for a body-cam program for police officers.

Last year, the fire department was unsuccessful in applying for a federal SAFER grant to fund the next fire recruit class.

"In years past, this has meant an annual savings of $8.3 million, however, these grants are expiring and will add expense to the general fund," Black wrote in his budget plan.

But Black said Thursday that, regardless of the outcome of the city's SAFER grant application, the fire department's budget increased $10.7 million in his budget proposal and will enable the department to have a sworn strength of 858 firefighters.

All of the city's union contracts are about to expire.

Black said all city employees – union and non-union – can expect a raise.

Black said members of the firefighters union and the police union can expect a raise of up to three percent in their new contracts. Non-represented employees can expect a raise up to one percent. The same applies to union members who long to other city unions, CODE and AFSCME.

A $97.5 million Capital Acceleration Program, Black said, will allow the city to repave an additional 40 lane miles of city streets by the end of the year and do preventative maintenance on another 150 lane miles. The money, he said, will also be used to replace an additional 130 city vehicles by the end of fiscal year 2017.

Some permit fees issued by the city would increase under his budget, Black said – mostly involving building permit fees.

"Not all the permit fees will be increasing – just a relative handful of them,'' Black said.