Most respondents to a survey about how Cincinnati should spend federal stimulus identified affordable housing as a top priority. The survey from Council Member David Mann's office has received more than 1,100 responses so far.
The City Manager's proposal for spending the $290 million includes $5 million for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. A motion from Mann and Council Member Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney passed unanimously Wednesday, requesting the city put $50 million from ARPA into the fund.
Mann says the amount they settle on will depend on the results of Issue 3 on the May ballot.
"If it passes and we have a $50 million obligation from local funds, I doubt that we would think it fair or appropriate to also make big expenditures out of this stimulus money from the federal government," Mann said.
The Issue 3 charter amendment specifies federal and state funding would not count toward the required $50 million contribution to the trust fund.
Mann says all categories of spending in the City Manager's proposal got at least 60% support from survey respondents:
- Cincinnati Recreation Centers and Pool Operation (82% support)
- Youth Employment (74% support)
- Arts Organizations (69% support)
- Social Services Support (83% support)
- Violence Prevention Initiatives (75% support)
- Neighborhood Support (79% support)
- Neighborhood Business Support (79% support)
- Restaurants Support (71% support)
- Minority Business Support (76% support)
- Affordable Housing Support (74% support)
- Blight Removal (60% support)
Mann says the administration's priorities seem to be in line with residents, but that doesn't necessarily make the decisions easier.
"When you get near the end of the funds, what things do you forego in order to fund something else where the need is greater?" Mann said.
A small percentage of respondents said they object to some of the projects in the City Manager's proposal:
- About 2.5% did not support police spending (not specifically identified in the City Manager's proposal)
- About 2% did not support Blink ($1 million proposed)
- About 2% did not support arts spending generally (about $11 million proposed, including Blink)
- About 1% did not support streetcar spending (not included in the City Manager's proposal)
Over 70% of respondents approve of filling the city's budget deficit with the funds. Mann says council will likely make some appropriations in the next couple of weeks, including deficit spending. The next fiscal year budget must be approved by June 30.
"I don't think it can be a long way off," Mann said. "The need is too great."
The motion passed Wednesday also requests $25 million in ARPA funds be used for flexible operating grants to human services organizations.
Mann's survey also asks residents for ideas for transformative projects; responses so far include:
- Free municipal WiFi
- A Youth Corp for employment and training, possible to include tuition credits at local colleges
- A "litter squad"
- Home ownership for first-time buyers
- Covering Ft. Washington Way with a deck to create a pedestrian link between Downtown and the riverfront.
All appropriations are subject to guidance from the U.S. Treasury, which have not been released yet.