Cincinnati city manager releases budget plan

May 13, 2015

Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black.
Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black presented his first budget Wednesday to Mayor John Cranley.  

Black said the proposed budget “does not use one-time sources to balance and strategically invests in areas ripe for improvement.”

In his message that accompanies the budget, Black says the plan “aims to take us to the next level.”

The administration presented an all-funds operating budget totaling $1 billion for fiscal year 2016 and $1.1 billion for fiscal year 2017.  The general fund portion is $375.5 million for FY2016 and $383.1 million for FY2017.  

Unlike previous years when the city’s general fund deficit was anywhere from $20 to $40 million, this year’s projected shortfall was $2.1 million.

There is some budget good news.  The city predicts income tax collections will increase by 3.7 percent.  Employee health care costs are down, the consent decree agreement on the pension system has stabilized city finances, and the Affordable Care Act has increased revenues for the city’s health department.

But there is also bad news.  The city’s fire department budget is increasing because federal grants to pay for new firefighters are expiring and all labor union contracts expire during the fiscal year and will have to be renegotiated.

City officials are proposing to keep the property tax millage rate the same for FY2016, but city residents could see a 5 percent increase on their water bills if Council ultimately approves the budget.

For the first time, this budget includes funding for streetcar operations.  Black wrote “the administration will monitor this closely to ensure the operating revenue projections materialize and the system does not burden the general fund.”

Black said the plan has five strategic priorities:  safer streets; thriving and healthy neighborhoods; a growing economy; innovative government; and fiscal sustainability and strategic investment.

1.    Safer Streets    
•    Increases funding for the police and fire departments
•    Police sworn strength is 1,024 officers
•    Fire sworn strength is 850 firefighters
•    Recruit classes of 30 police officers in FY2016 and FY2017
•    Civilianization of 10 police positions, meaning 10 officers on the street
•    $600,000 for police overtime to focus on crime hotspots
•    Additional money for the “Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence”    
•    40 member fire recruit class in FY2016

2.    Thriving/Health Neighborhoods
•    $6,800 for neighborhood community councils
•    $4,530 for neighborhood business districts
•    New “Community Engagement Challenge Grant Initiative”
•    Increased funding for blight reduction

3.    A Growing Economy
•    Continued funding and investment for projects already underway:
        GE at The Banks; 4th and Race; Wasson Way Bike Trail
•    Funds for City’s first department of Economic Inclusion
•    Reorganized Community and Econ Development Department
•    Stand-along Planning Department
•    Re-constituted Department of Buildings and Inspection

4.    Innovative Government
•    Creation of Office of Performance and Data Analytics
•    Use of Innovation Lab to find operating efficiencies
•    Performance management agreements with various department heads
5.    Fiscal Sustainability and Strategic Re-investment
•    Funding to comply with consent decree recommendations on pension system
•    Additional $91 million in six-year capital budget to improve city streets and bring the city’s fleet of vehicles back into life cycle.
•    Additional funds for information technology and making city’s website more of a source of two-way communication

The police officer number could bring complaints from the Fraternal Order of Police and some city council members.

FOP President Kathy Harrell recently told a council committee the sworn strength should be 1,135 officers.  At least two council members said publicly they support that number.  Harrell also is opposed to hiring 10 civilians to replace officers who would be reassigned to the streets.

Mayor John Cranley has already forwarded the budget to city council.

Council’s Budget and Finance Committee will hold five public hearing on the budget before taking a final vote sometime in mid-June.

  • Wednesday, May 27, 2015 - 6 p.m. Saylor Park Recreation Center
  • Thursday, May 28, 2015 - 6 p.m. Roselawn Athletic Center
  • Monday, June 1, 2015 - 6 p.m. Madisonville Recreation Center
  • Tuesday, June 2, 2015 - 6 p.m. Mt. Airy Elementary School
  • Thursday, June 4, 2015 - 6 p.m. Price Hill Recreation Center