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Politics

Here's what Cincinnatians told Council to put in the budget at the first public hearing

Budget Hearing Photo.jpg
Becca Costello
/
WVXU
The first public hearing for the FY23 Cincinnati budget drew nearly a hundred people in person and virtually.

Cincinnati Council is getting public feedback on the city budget earlier in the process than usual, with the first public hearing drawing nearly a hundred people Monday night.

The city's budget office is predicting a $17.2 million budget deficit next year, even after using $66 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to fill most of the gap.

Budget Director Andrew Dudas says over 83% of the general fund goes to personnel and benefits.

"It's also important to note the city has a significant amount of representation with bargaining units," Dudas said. "So a lot of that personnel and benefits expenditures are part of negotiated contracts with a variety of labor units." In other words, not a lot room for flexibility.

Most speakers at Monday's public hearing were representatives of local nonprofits hoping to retain funding or be added to the next budget. Some residents advocated for general priorities like affordable housing and pedestrian safety, but a few had specific ideas.

Stacey Smith of West Price Hill is a licensed professional counselor. She pitched an idea for the city to support public education about behavioral health resources that are already available, like the Talbert House 24/7 crisis line (513-281-2273).

"A proactive approach to mental health care will also help with other issues in our city, including the affordable housing crisis, public safety, and the overall health and wellness of our neighbors," Smith said. "I believe that as a city, we owe them that much."

Peter Hames of Over-the-Rhine pitched his idea to create an Office of Neighborhood Investment and Engagement and increase funding support for community councils.

"When the [Neighborhood Support Program] was first created, the allocation to Community Councils was $10,000; this year, it's $7,600," Hames said. "So the city is actually contributing less than it did 33 years ago."

If the original amount stayed the same and kept up with inflation, that would be $22,800 in 2022.

Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, says more than 550 people in Cincinnati died young because of homelessness in the last six years, with an average age of 51.

"I know that this council has the greatest potential of councils that we've seen to do something big for the people of this city," Spring said. He asked council to put 20% of American Rescue Plan Act funds into the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

Part of the city budget each year is direct support to nonprofit humanitarian organizations, much of that through the Human Services Fund.

The Human Services Chamber of Hamilton County represents over 90 agencies in the region. Executive director Mike Moroski says a recent survey of their members showed the need for services is up and the money available is down.

"We are really, really excited to hear this city council talk about a higher percentage of human services funding," Moroski said. "We would just like to put it out there: we realize the budget dollars may be less. And so if the percentage is more, we appreciate that; but we definitely want to see more dollars, not just a higher percentage."

Interim City Manager John Curp is expected to release his proposed budget on May 15. More public hearings will be scheduled for after that date; council has until the end of June to approve a final plan.

Learn more about the city budget: https://www.cincinnati-oh.gov/finance/cincinnati-budget-engagement/

Understanding the city budget

Fiscal Year 2023 (often abbreviated as FY23) begins July 1, 2022 and ends on June 30, 2023.

Generally speaking, the city has an Operating Budget (which includes services provided by the city, like police, fire, trash collection, etc.) and a Capital Budget (which covers purchasing or improving city assets like buildings and vehicles). General fund dollars can be used for capital projects, but capital dollars cannot be used for operating expenses.

The majority of city revenue comes from income taxes, also called earnings taxes. Usually that makes up as much as 72% of overall revenue; this year (like last year) is unique because of federal stimulus. Here's the breakdown of revenue for FY23:

  • Earnings Taxes: 60.1%
  • American Rescue Plan Act: 14.6%
  • Property Taxes: 6.3%
  • State Shared Revenue: 2.5%
  • Casino Tax: 1.7%
  • Investments: 0.9%
  • Parking Meter: 0.3%
  • Other Revenues: 13.6% *

* Includes: license and permit fees; admission taxes; short-term rental excise taxes; buildings and inspections fees and permits, etc.
The current city income tax is 1.8% of gross earnings and the revenue is divided into three categories:

  • 1.55% for the general fund
  • 0.15% for permanent improvements (capital)
  • 0.1% for maintenance of city infrastructure

See the city's budget presentation below: