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Council adds $750k in spending to the budget draft ahead of final vote

Becca Costello

Cincinnati Council is adding $750,000 in spending to the proposed city budget for the next fiscal year. Council is pulling from several sources to avoid cutting anything from the budget recommended by the mayor and city manager.

The Budget and Finance Committee passed a few motions Monday afternoon to request amendments to the current budget draft. The committee will finalize those changes in a special meeting Wednesday morning, ahead of an expected final vote of full Council Wednesday afternoon.

The final vote on the motion was 7-1 (Council Member Victoria Parks was absent).

LEARN MORE: How to understand the city budget proposal

Mayor Aftab Pureval visited the committee to present his proposal to spend about $11 million in an ordinance separate from the budget. Council debated several motions related to the mayor's proposal.

Leveraged support

Funding for nonprofits is called "leveraged support." It includes the Human Services Fund, with a competitive application process administered by the United Way. Another piece goes to groups that operate city programs, like 3CDC for managing Fountain Square, Washington Park and Ziegler Park.

Separately, some organizations get direct funding in the budget; it's about $4 million, less than 1% of the General Fund.

Council wants to add leveraged support funding to four organizations:

  • Cintrifuse: $25,000 (added to recommended $200,000)
  • CincyTech: $125,000 (added to recommended $100,000)
  • Cincinnati Works: $50,000 (added to recommended $175,000)
  • Film Cincinnati: $50,000 (new to budget, requested $100,000)

The funding will come from the General Fund contingency account.
This year, for the first time, organizations had to formally apply for funding. The city manager's office reviewed the applications and recommended funding amounts.

"I think that these four organizations have made the case for continued investment in the programming because the real focus is on economic growth," said Council Member Reggie Harris. "I want to be very clear not to underscore or undercut any work that the city manager's office has done because I fundamentally respect that process. But as council we have priorities that I think we want to express."

LEARN MORE: How to understand the city budget proposal

Council Member Jeff Cramerding was the only opposing vote for the motion, saying council shouldn't pull from a reserve account to increase funding for third-party organizations.

"At the end of the day, if we really believe that we are $10 million in the hole next year, I don't think that this budget overall cuts deep enough," Cramerding said. "Certainly, at a minimum, it's going to zero-out leveraged support next year, and all those organizations should be put on notice that we're not going to have money for leveraged support. So I am very concerned."

Vice Mayor Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney offered an amendment to the motion to pull $275,000 from the Boots on the Ground Fund to split between four projects:

  • Add another $50,000 to Cincinnati Works
  • Add $125,000 to Community Councils
  • Add $25,000 to Invest in Neighborhoods
  • Add $75,000 for Bethany House

Her amendment failed on a 4-4 vote.
Mayor Pureval's proposed ordinance includes $190,000 for four organizations: two to increase what the city manager recommended, and two that applied but didn't get recommended for funding.

RELATED: Council's new rules for nonprofits to get city funding are playing out now. Here's how it's going

Council Member Liz Keating praised the recent changes to the leveraged support process, then asked the mayor a pointed question: "Can you explain why you think it's important to go against that process?"

"I reject the premise of your question," Pureval responded. "Respectfully, I didn't go against the process. There was additional money that came in after the leverage support process had already happened."

Roller rink and Wasson Way

The motion includes $100,000 for an effort to rehabilitate the outdoor roller rink at Sawyer Point, a project that inspired dozens of public comments in recent meetings.

"I think it's just a smart investment when we're thinking about ... how we activate spaces that support diversity and community," said Council Member Meeka Owens.

The source for this funding will be the Downtown-South TIF District, which holds property tax revenue from within the district to be spent on projects that benefit the public in the same area.

Council also wants to spend $400,000 on lighting along the Wasson Way extension in Avondale. That money would come from the Capital contingency, General Fund contingency, and Street Lighting Fund.

Financial Freedom Projects

Mayor Aftab Pureval visited the Budget and Finance Meeting Monday to present his proposal to spend about $11 million in an ordinance separate from the budget.

The money comes from tax credits from the Cincinnati Southern Railway Board (about $6 million) and re-allocations from fiscal year 2023 (about $5 million).

A total of $2.1 million in city funding would go toward three financial empowerment pilot programs, recommended after a months-long study using a $75,000 grant from the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund.

RELATED: Cincinnati considering guaranteed income, medical debt relief, child savings account programs

The final CFE report isn't ready yet, and Keating successfully lobbied to earmark the $2.1 million for Financial Freedom projects without specifically allocating the dollars to the three projects listed in the mayor's proposal.

Separately, Keating tried to move the $250,000 slated for a universal basic income study to the Recreation Commission for childcare programming. That motion failed on a 6-2 vote, with Mark Jeffreys joining Keating in support.

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.