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Columbus Budget Would Drain Cash Reserves To Pay For Basic Services

Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther.
Matthew Rand
Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther.

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther plans to drain the majority of the Basic City Services Fund to pay for investments to police, fire, parks and other basic services in his budget proposal, which is the largest spending plan in the city's history.

The Columbus Dispatch first broke the storyand reports this is likely the largest draw-down of city cash reserves in decades.

Refunds from the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation over the last three years helped push Columbus' Basic City Services Fund to $74 million at the start of 2021.

The mayor's budget would leave that fund with only $10 million by the end of next year.

Mayor Ginther defends the decision.

"We've been planning on this. That's why we created the Basic City Services Fund a number of years ago," said Ginther.

"We're not touching the rainy day fund, by the way. We're investing an additional million dollars into the rainy day fund to make sure we protect that triple-A bond rating from all three rating agencies."

The city is facing a projected 6.3 percent drop in income tax receipts next year, driven by increasing numbers of people working from home.

Ginther said Columbus' situation is unique.

"I think about 1 percent of local governments around America rely on income tax revenue. As you know, about 80 percent of our general fund comes from income tax revenue, and folks generally pay that where they work, not where they live, at least in Ohio," the Mayor said.

"We're committed to working with the governor and legislature to figure out how we can continue to grow Ohio's economy."

Matthew Rand is the Morning Edition host for 89.7 NPR News. Rand served as an interim producer during the pandemic for WOSU’s All Sides daily talk show.