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Cincinnati's carryover budget this year is huge. Here's how it could be spent

Mayor Aftab Pureval addressed reporters Wednesday at City Hall on the city's proposal to invest $300,000 investment into the American Dream Down Payment Initiative.
Cory Sharber
Mayor Aftab Pureval at City Hall in March 2022.

More than $85 million is left over from Cincinnati’s last fiscal year budget, which ended June 30. The surplus is thanks to federal stimulus as well as revenue, like income tax, coming in higher than expected.

Mayor Aftab Pureval and City Manager Sheryl Long have a recommended spending plan for most of it, and Cincinnati Council will have the ultimate say.

"This carryover budget is good news in that we have $85 million," Pureval said Friday. "But it's also not an indication of our financial health moving forward; we are expecting significant deficits in the near future."

About a quarter of the surplus automatically goes into several reserve accounts, following a financial stabilization policy set by Council over the past several years.

  • General Fund Carryover Balance (1.5% of operating revenue)
  • General Fund Contingency Account (2% of operating revenue)
  • Economic Downturn Reserve (5% of operating revenue)
  • Working Capital Reserve (8.2% of operating revenue)

This year that totals about $22 million and reaches a goal the city has been working on for years: saving 16.7% of the annual general fund.
"And what that means is, for example, if the hillside (on Columbia Parkway) on the East Side crumbles again, or we have landslides, massive projects that we have not budgeted for, we can draw down those reserves," Pureval said.

After the reserve accounts, surplus funds go into a "waterfall" of pre-established funds dedicated for certain things. This is the first carryover budget since Council changed the waterfall process earlier this year.

One such bucket is the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which will get $5 million — the maximum amount under the policy. Another new item is $2 million for the city's unfunded pension liability, also the maximum amount. These priorities will be part of future carryover budgets as well, but it's not likely to be as much money as this year.

The third waterfall bucket is $500,000 for an Operating Budget Contingencies Account. Half is recommended to stay in savings. The other half is recommended for a few projects:

  • Extending the Alternative Response to Crisis pilot program. The six-month pilot would be extended to the end of fiscal year 2023 with $140,000
  • $60,000 for police department overtime during the summer of 2022
  • $25,000 for marijuana expungement efforts, covering the court costs and filing fees of eligible individuals seeking expungement
  • $25,000 for lifeguard recruitment and bonus pay to address a shortage

The recommended spending plan includes about $26 million for deferred capital maintenance, meaning repairs and upgrades to city-owned facilities.
"This includes needed renovations in all of our health clinics, 12 of our recreation areas, including a $500,000 renovation in Evanston, $500,000 towards making ADA improvements at city facilities to ensure all residents have access, and $3.5 million in renovations for our fleet facilities," Pureval said.

The overall cost of deferred maintenance is estimated at over $100 million; that amount grows each year, especially as construction costs have risen.

See full recommendations for carryover spending. Story continues after.

The recommendations also include about $13 million in one-time spending:

  • $1.5 million for neighborhood business district capital support
  • $7 million for pre-development and design costs associated with renovation of the Duke Energy Convention Center
  • $3.5 million for Over-the-Rhine outdoor improvements (including Ziegler Park expansion and resources to address recent violence)
  • $250,000 for Bond Hill business district investment, supporting the work of the Community Economic Advancement Initiatives in Bond Hill and Roselawn
  • $1 million for the Lincoln & Gilbert minority business accelerator program

After all that, there's still about $7.3 million without a recommended spending plan. The administration is suggesting general priorities and guidelines for Council to spend that money.

Council has final say on spending the entire $85.1 million carryover, and could ignore or modify the administration's recommendation.

The Budget and Finance Committee will discuss the budget in the next two meetings: Monday, Oct. 10 at 1 p.m. and Monday, Oct. 17 at 1 p.m. Chair Greg Landsman says it's unlikely the committee will vote on anything before Oct. 17, with a final vote on Oct. 19.

Local Government Reporter with a particular focus on Cincinnati; experienced journalist in public radio and television throughout the Midwest. Enthusiastic about: civic engagement, public libraries, and urban planning.