Cincinnati Council is expected to approve the city's operating budget Wednesday for the fiscal year which starts July 1st.
The Budget and Finance Committee held a final public hearing on the spending plan Tuesday night. 25 people offered their comments at Midway Elementary School in Westwood.
The majority of them spoke in favor of city funding to improve neighborhood business districts.
"That model is one, until you get on the outside and you look in, you don't realize how good it is," said resident Melissa Wegman. "That money that we get, you have thousands of hours of volunteers, people that are collaborating with communities that are less fortunate but are able to learn from the experiences of successful communities."
Neighborhood business districts usually get $1 to $2 million of funding from the city. The interim city manager and the mayor's budget eliminated that money for the new fiscal year. Council is ready to restore $500,000 of that funding, but right now there is not a source for that money.
"The bottom line is that good things are happening in Pleasant Ridge and it's critical for us to continue to build on this momentum," said Greg Laux. "All I'm asking you guys to do is to fund it at the same level you've funded it in the past and allow the good things that have been happening in Pleasant Ridge to continue happening in the future."
A couple of other speakers thanked Council for not cutting human services funding in the new budget.
But Josh Spring with the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition said all such funding needs to go through the United Way process that was adopted a few years ago. He cited additional city money for the Center for Closing the Health Gap and a Price Hill ministry program.
"All of which may be wonderful, but the problem is we don't know because every other group has to go through a process," Spring said. "How will you evaluate, where will you spend the money. That reduces the politicking and it allows an evaluation later to see if they are doing what they said."
Other speakers spoke about funding for the city's health department, efforts to reduce infant mortality, and continued support for the African-American Chamber of Commerce.
Meanwhile, Council will consider two budgets Wednesday for the Greater Cincinnati Water Works. One will have a 7.5 percent rate hike and another has a 4 percent increase. It appears a Council majority will support the smaller amount.
Mayor John Cranley released his spending proposal last month, which largely endorsed what he called a “structurally balanced budget” proposal from interim city manager Scott Stiles. Cranley did make some adjustments to the plan before sending it on to city council for consideration.
The proposal has about $22 million in budget reductions and about $3 million of revenue increases, largely from fees for some city services. The budget focuses on basics like police, fire and public services.
Six members of Council on Monday approved a motion making about a dozen changes to Cranley’s proposed budget.
Council Members Winburn, Murray, Smitherman, Mann, Sittenfeld and Young are expected to vote in favor of the budget plan. Members Seelbach, Simpson and Flynn will likely vote against it.
Council’s Budget and Finance Committee meets Wednesday at noon to approve the ordinances and resolutions to enact the budget. The full Council will take final votes at two o'clock.