Hundreds of people have already signed up to participate in public hearings about Cincinnati's budget. Those sessions start Tuesday evening and will now conclude with a potential 12-hour meeting Friday.
The hearings will be held at the Duke Energy Convention Center, and people can testify in person or participate remotely via Zoom.
- Tuesday, 6 p.m. to midnight
- Thursday, 4 p.m. to midnight
- Friday, noon to midnight
The major focus is expected to be the issue of defunding the police department. That's been an issue raised by protestors across the country following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. He died while in police custody, and his death has sparked protests in Cincinnati and across the country ever since.
Protestors have suggested that money should be taken from the police department and redirected toward healthcare, housing and education.
Council Member Chris Seelbach asked City Manager Patrick Duhaney Monday why the manager's recommended budget includes a funding increase for the police department despite thousand of emails from people asking for the opposite.
Duhaney said he was following previous council policy concerning public safety.
Seelbach was not convinced.
"It's not my position anymore that we should continue funding police and fire at the expense of everything else," Seelbach said. "If we have a surplus, that's a different story. But we cannot continue to increase funding for police while cutting all these departments. There are already a thousand people less than there were 21 years ago."
Council Member Wendell Young defended Duhaney and said the budget is the manager's recommendation. Young said the final decision rests with City Council.
He said he understands the call to change how some things are funded.
"We cannot police our way out of racism; we cannot police our way out of substandard housing, substandard education; we cannot police our way out of people not being able to find adequate jobs to support themselves and their families with," Young said. "And I think we're also realizing that the issues that we face in today's society cannot be solved - in fact they've never been solved - by police."
Young and Council Member David Mann suggested there's not enough time to address the police funding issue in the budget that's expected to be approved next week. They suggest that should wait for the next fiscal year.
While council members were discussing the city budget inside City Hall, there was a group of protestors outside. That group was loud enough to be heard in the council chamber.
Mona Jenkins with Mass Action for Black Liberation said the city should not increase police funding while cutting human services funding, and encouraged those in attendance to make their voices heard during the upcoming budget hearings.
"Too much spending is happening in the police budget," Jenkins told WVXU outside City Hall. "And addition to that, we are now equipping them with military equipment. That needs to stop. There needs to be a need for an increase in funding towards human services, public services, health services. We have one of the highest poverty rates in this country and we can address it, we just chose not to. But it is time for us to because it's a health issue. It's always been a health issue, but it hasn't been a priority. Especially now after COVID, we have to make this a priority and we have to start shifting."
Specific to the police budget, the recommended spending plan includes $155,331,380 for police. That compares to $154,133,200 in the current budget that ends June 30.
Police spending increases include:
- $5.8 million related to the FOP contract for wages and wage-based benefits
- $1.4 million for the body worn camera contract
- $600,000 for various non-personnel increases
- $400,000 for overtime
Department spending decreases are:
- $1.2 million by delaying a police recruit class to the end of the new fiscal year
- $2.4 million by holding 15 civilian positions open for the fiscal year
- $1.2 million from department budget being under original estimate
- $100,000 savings from the police impound lot
- $400,000 by shifting some expenses to the state asset forfeiture fund
- $100,000 across the board non-personnel savings
- $300,000 ammunition savings
- $400,000 healthcare savings
- $800,000 from proposed early retirement incentive program
- $100,000 freezing merit and COLA raises for non-represented employees