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Cincinnati Council Still Tweaking This Year's Budget

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Cincinnati Council could vote Wednesday on about $5.4 million dollars in changes to the city's budget for the current year.  

The plan would allow the police department to start its next recruit class in January instead of April. That comes after Police Chief Eliot Isaac said in a memo last week that the number of sworn police officers will likely drop below 1,000 next spring. He asked for help to advance the start date of the next recruit training class.

A city council committee approved that request and also reaffirmed spending for several other programs that were voted on last week.

Proposed spending changes in the ordinance:

  • $300,000 for items already included in this year's budget, but without a funding source
  • $47,000 to pay for a state audit finding concerning Metropolitan Sewer District
  • $425,000 ShotSpotter in Price Hill
  • $18,000 property tax repayment error
  • $2,000,000 police radio upgrade
  • $75,000 housing court startup cost
  • $60,000 heroin call center
  • $636,000 police recruit class earlier start date (January instead of April 2019)
  • $709,000 items funded with proposed billboard tax delayed by litigation
  • $500,000 Bethany House to buy land for new facility
  • $250,000 pilot eviction prevention program
  • $15,000 ArtsWorks employment project
  • $110,000 Wage Compression funding (adjusting some city employee salaries)
  • $73,000 additional for CincyTech (economic development program)
  • $150,000 additional funding for the Center for Closing the Health Gap

The plan covers this additional spending with carryover money from last year's budget; proceeds the city will receive from selling the Whex Garage at 212 W. 4th Street; and reducing the amount of money that would have been added to the city's reserve accounts.
The city would be adding $1,927,000 to the reserve accounts, which is less than the $2,636,000 the acting city manager had proposed.

Council Member P.G. Sittenfeld said during Monday's meeting it's about funding priorities.

"I just don't want anyone today or on Wednesday to weaponize or politicize one worthy cause against another worthy cause," Sittenfeld said. "I think we have a viable way of dealing with all of these things and that's what I put on the table."

Council Member David Mann objected to the plan largely because it takes $636,000 that was to go into reserve accounts and uses it to advance the start date of the police recruit class.

"We have a sudden need here and let's take the easy way out and raid our reserves," Mann said. "Recognizing that it leads us in a different direction than we committed to the bonding agencies. I find that very troublesome. There are other ways that this can be addressed."

While a council majority, or majority, may support the proposal, it may not get six votes needed to overcome a possible mayoral veto. Mayor John Cranley has opposed efforts to continue funding for the Health Gap.

Council Member Chris Seelbach has also pledged to vote against the proposal unless he gets six votes on a plan to fully fund the Liberty Street road diet project, designed to make the route more friendly for pedestrians and bicyclists. Right now, it only has the support of five members and could also face a mayoral veto.