Here’s what Cincinnatians told Council to put in the budget during the first public hearing

Cincinnati Council is receiving public comment on the city’s budget earlier in the process than usual, with the first public hearing drawing nearly 100 people Monday night.

The city’s budget office projects a budget shortfall of $17.2 million next year, even after using $66 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to fill most of the gap.

Budget director Andrew Dudas says more than 83% of the general fund is spent on staff and benefits.

“It’s also important to note that the city has significant representation with bargaining units,” Dudas said. “So a lot of these personnel and benefits expenses are part of negotiated contracts with various work units.” In other words, not much room for flexibility.

Most of the speakers at Monday’s public hearing were representatives of local nonprofits hoping to keep their funding or be added to the next budget. Some residents championed general priorities like affordable housing and pedestrian safety, but a few had specific ideas.

Stacey Smith of West Price Hill is a licensed professional counsellor. She pitched an idea to the city to support public education about behavioral health resources that are already available, such as Talbert House’s 24/7 crisis line (513-281-2273).

“A proactive approach to mental health care will also help address other issues in our city, including the affordable housing crisis, public safety, and the general health and well-being of our neighbors,” Smith said. “I believe that as a city we owe them a lot.”

Peter Hames from Over-the-Rhine presented his idea to create a neighborhood investment and engagement office and increase financial support for community councils.

“When the [Neighborhood Support Program] was established, the community council allowance was $10,000; this year it’s $7,600,” Hames said. “So the city is actually contributing less than it was 33 years ago.”

If the initial amount remained the same and followed inflation, it would be $22,800 in 2022.

Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, said more than 550 people in Cincinnati have died young due to homelessness in the past six years, with an average age of 51.

“I know this council has the greatest potential for councils we’ve seen to do something great for the people of this city,” Spring said. He asked the council to put 20% of American Rescue Plan Act funds into the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

A portion of the city’s budget each year is direct support for nonprofit humanitarian organizations, largely through the Human Services Fund.

The Human Services Chamber of Hamilton County represents over 90 agencies in the region. According to Executive Director Mike Moroski, a recent survey of their members showed that the need for services is up and the money available is down.

“We’re really, really excited to hear this city council talking about a higher percentage of funding for social services,” Moroski said. “We’d just like to say this: We realize the budget dollars may be lower. And so, if the percentage is higher, we appreciate it; but we definitely want to see more dollars, not just a higher percentage.”

Acting City Manager John Curp is due to release his proposed budget on May 15. Further public hearings will be scheduled after this date; Council has until the end of June to approve a final plan.

Learn more about the city budget: https://www.cincinnati-oh.gov/finance/cincinnati-budget-engagement/

Understand the city budget

The 2023 fiscal year (often abbreviated as FY23) begins July 1, 2022 and ends June 30, 2023.

Generally speaking, the city has an operating budget (which includes services provided by the city, such as police, fire, garbage collection, etc.) and a capital budget (which covers the purchase or improvement of city assets such as buildings and vehicles). General fund dollars can be used for capital projects, but capital dollars cannot be used for operating expenses.

The majority of the city’s revenue comes from income taxes, also known as income taxes. Usually, this represents up to 72% of overall turnover; this year (like last year) is unique due to federal stimulus measures. Here is the revenue breakdown for FY23:

  • Income tax: 60.1%
  • US Bailout Act: 14.6%
  • Property taxes: 6.3%
  • Revenue shared by the state: 2.5%
  • Casino tax: 1.7%
  • Investments: 0.9%
  • Parking meter: 0.3%
  • Other income: 13.6% *

* Includes: license and permit fees; admission fees; excise taxes on short-term rentals; construction and inspection fees and permits, etc.
The current municipal income tax is 1.8% of gross income and income is divided into three categories:

  • 1.55% for the general fund
  • 0.15% for permanent improvements (capital)
  • 0.1% for maintenance of city infrastructure

See the presentation of the city budget below:

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