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Columbus City Council proposes an additional $23 million for city spending this year

Columbus City Hall
David Holm

Columbus City Council will introduce amendments to the proposed city budget Mayor Andrew Ginther proposed in November on Monday night.

The council wants to add $23 million to the budget, in order to increase investment in pre-K education, alternative policing programs, social services and other initiatives.

If the amendments are approved, as expected, that will give the city a total budget of $2.3 billion, with a general fund of $1.163 billion for the year.

Council is expected to vote to amend the budget at their Monday meeting, and to vote on whether or not to approve it on Feb. 13.

Several programs are set to be expanded.

Council President Shannon Hardin said at an announcement Monday that a 25% increase in pre-K school funding will add about 1,200 new openings for young students in the city.

"An investment in early childhood helps prevent academic achievement gaps, reduce focuses for special education, and increases likelihood of healthier lifestyles, lower crime rates, and reduces overall societal costs," said Councilman Rob Dorans.

The budget will also raise the pay of part-time employees in the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department to $15 an hour, and raise pay for lifeguards to $17 an hour, which will help keep pools and parks open this summer amid a labor shortage, Hardin said. He said the city saw the need to retain employees last summer and wants to be prepared this summer.

Another amendment adds $1 million to work on non-police response networks, in addition to the $3.5 million Ginther outlined in his budget, Hardin said.

"We need a health-first safety response program. I've often said that both locally and nationally, we've become too reliant on police officers to solve all of our society's problems. Expecting law enforcement to answer every call on every issue from homelessness to mental health and addiction is too much to ask," Hardin said.

But, traditional police funding still takes up the majority of the budget. “Public safety is still our top budget investment for Columbus every year, even as we begin to add more resources for the right response team," Hardin said.

Hardin said the programs offering alternatives to policing are starting to make a difference and will become stronger in 2023 with the additional funding.

The budget will double the original amount slated for funding for social service agencies to $10 million.

Councilwoman Shayla Favor said $1.5 million will be dedicated to providing legal representation to people facing eviction. "Access to safe, stable and quality shelter is fundamental to the stabilization of individuals and families, to physical and mental health, quality of life, and economic outturns," Favor said.

Columbus City Council is also expected to approve an additional $1 million for the rainy day fund, with a goal of getting it to $114 million by 2027. Currently, the fund sits at about $90 million, according to Hardin. He said the fund will help offset the effects of future economic downturns.

The amended budget includes $2.5 million for the neighborhood safety grant fund and $1.5 million for summer youth programs. There are also carve outs for programs meant to assist people with job training, health care, education and small business support.

Renee Fox is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News.