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Cincinnati City Budget Hearings Continue

Cincinnati residents have one last chance Tuesday night to comment on the city's proposed budget for the fiscal year, which is set to begin July 1st.

City Council's Budget and Finance Committee is holding a final public hearing beginning at six o'clock at the College Hill Recreation Center, located at 5545 Belmont Avenue.

30 people offered their comments on the proposed budget Monday night during a hearing at the Reds Urban Youth Academy.  

Most of them were offering support or opposition to various projects in Avondale that Mayor John Cranley proposed in his budget changes.

"I will not rest until Avondale is a place that you can worship, shop, live, play, get educated, health and wellness," said resident Kareem Moffett. "All of that in a space that was once, and if it was that once, it can be that again."

Nearly everyone supports the mayor's plan to provide $2 million for the Avondale Town Center project at the corner of Reading Road and Forest Avenue.  It's a proposed mixed use development with retail space and housing.  

The speakers are divided on $450,000 to buy the Alaska Commons site from National Church Residences.  Some support the mayor's plan to buy the site so the neighborhood has a say in its future.  Others want the $450,000 to be used for other projects in Avondale.

Some of the speakers lobbied Monday night for human services programs including Barbara Perez, who is the President and CEO of the YWCA of Greater Cincinnati.

"Investing in human services is one piece of ensuring Cincinnati is a safe and welcoming place for people of all ages," Perez said. "These critical investments will help to support our young people and ultimately increase the quality of life for all Cincinnatians."

Human services funding is expected to remain $3 million, which is the same as this year.  It could even increase by another $250,000.  

Meanwhile, Keep Cincinnati Beautiful is asking for $90,000 for its "Future Blooms" program.  

"Future Blooms has successfully assisted in helping to decrease blight, crime and litter, and increased community pride and economic development throughout Cincinnati," said Keep Cincinnati Beautiful Executive Director Mary Huttlinger.

The city cut funding for the program last year, but the agency continued it with savings.  Huttlinger said it cannot continue to do that in the new fiscal year.

The full Cincinnati Council is now scheduled to vote on the new budget June 22nd.  

The original date was June 15th, but some council members have complained the process is being rushed.  So Budget and Finance Committee chairman Charlie Winburn delayed a final decision until June 22nd.

Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black last month laid out a $1.2 billion all-funds operating budget for the city for fiscal year 2017.  He said it is structurally balanced – mainly because the city's revenue is expected to increase.

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

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.

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.

Mayor John Cranley has proposed several changes to the city manager's proposal.  That includes restoring funding for human services programs, which Black had reduced in his plan.
Cranley also added nearly $37 million for several neighborhood development projects, including nearly $12 million to purchase the former Wasson Way rail line to turn it into a bike and hike trail.

(WVXU's Howard Wilkinson contributed to this story)