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With Public Comment In, Council Weighs City Budget

Cincinnati committee held a public hearing on the city's budget at Madcap Theatre Tuesday evening.
Jay Hanselman
Cincinnati committee held a public hearing on the city's budget at Madcap Theatre Tuesday evening.

It's now up to Cincinnati City Council members to make changes to the city's proposed budget for the fiscal year which starts July 1.

Council members have until Friday to submit motions making modifications to Budget and Finance Committee Chairman David Mann.

They'll make their decisions after hearing from nearly 200 people during three public hearings. The final one was held Tuesday night at Madcap Theatre in Westwood.

Like the previous sessions, many speakers asked City Council to restore funds for The Center for Closing the Health Gap. City Manager Patrick Duhaney and Mayor John Cranley didn't include any money for the organization in their budget proposals.

"People in various communities throughout the city depend on the Health Gap for information, education and support," said Deborah Spradley, who works as a consultant for the organization. "As a researcher I know the value of an organization that has built a trust with the community and uses evidence-based data to listen to community residents in order to provide services that are wanted and needed."

Several speakers asked council to keep the director of the city's Office of Environment and Sustainability.  Larry Falkin is set to be transferred to another city department unless council funds his current position.

"Energy efficiency work by the OES has reduced the city government's electric bill by about $7 million per year and that will continue year after year," said Eric Gruenstein. "Recycling initiatives by the OES of about 16,000 tons of trash each year saves the city about $2.5 million that would have otherwise been spent to handle that same material."

Other speakers Tuesday evening, and at other hearings, asked for continued funding for economic development programs, neighborhoods, Keep Cincinnati Beautiful and human services programs.

Mann has suggested there's majority support from council members to fund the Health Gap and maintain the OES director's position.

Duhaney presented his spending proposal May 9.  His plan for all city funds totaled $1.4 billion.  The general fund budget, which covers basic city services, is almost $393 million.  

City officials had to close a nearly $19 million deficit in the general fund.  They did that with a combination of higher than expected income tax collections, and asking departments to make cuts.  Those reductions totaled about $16 million.

Those cuts included transferring nine city employees to positions outside the general fund, including the OES director. Other city positions will remain vacant in order to save money.

The manager also cut funding to a number of neighborhood, economic development and human services agencies.

Mayor John Cranley restored funding to many of those organizations when he released his changes to the manager's budget on May 16. He restored $3.1 million of the cuts that Duhaney had proposed.  

The Budget and Finance Committee is expected to finalize budget ordinances June 17.  The full City Council is expected to vote on the spending plan June 19. A new spending plan must be in place by June 30.


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Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.