CINCINNATI - When it comes to the city of Cincinnati’s budget, the numbers to remember are 344 and zero.
The first number – 344 – was the amount of people who would be laid off at City Hall unless a controversial parking lease was approved, City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. announced in late March.
The second number – zero – is the actual number of layoffs that will occur after a City Council majority Tuesday restored $3.8 million in budget cuts made in May.
Although the parking lease still isn’t implemented due to delays caused by a legal battle, City Council gradually reduced the number of layoffs as they found money that could be transferred from elsewhere to save jobs.
This week, the final 67 positions slated for layoffs were canceled. Those included 32 positions that are part-time, 28 represented by the AFSCME labor union and seven non-unionized workers.
A council majority led by Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls said the city received $10 million more in tax revenues for Fiscal Year 2013, which ended June 30.
The extra cash came in May and June, and couldn’t be included in the spending plan that City Council had to pass by May 31.
“At this point, we are anticipating no layoffs at all,” Qualls said at a Tuesday morning press conference, announcing the budget restorations.
“The good news is the local economy has been recovering,” Qualls added. “The national economy is getting better… but we’re also adding jobs to our income tax base”.
Qualls has the support of City Council’s Democratic majority: Laure Quinlivan, Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson, Pamula Thomas and Wendell Young. That’s enough votes for passage on the nine-member group.
Councilman Charlie Winburn, a Republican, called the action a political ploy. All current council members are running for reelection this year except Qualls, who is running for mayor.
"This tax and spend council is running scared," Winburn said. "This is a desperate attempt by Roxanne and a desperate attempt by her colleagues, who feel they have to buy votes at this time."
Winburn wants some of the money restored to the budget instead set aside for the city's emergency reserves.
Besides preventing the layoffs, other cuts that will be restored include $900,000 for the Health Department. The money will be used to keep positions there that are responsible for rat control, bedbug education, swimming pool inspections, along with litter and weed elimination.
A total of $610,000 will be restored in human services funding. Some of the money will go to the Center for Closing the Health Gap, an agency founded and led by ex-Mayor Dwight Tillery, who remains active in Democratic politics.
Also, $600,000 will be restored to the Public Services Department. The money will be used to save AFSCME jobs that help maintain greenspace.
Another $430,000 will be restored to the Neighborhood Support Fund and the Neighborhood Business District Support Fund.
Additionally, $400,000 will be restored to the Parks Department and $312,000 to the Recreation Department.
“Cincinnati’s strategy of investing in jobs, neighborhoods and people is working,” Qualls said.
Qualls' allies repeated that theme.
“We know that neighborhoods are the foundation of our city,” Simpson said. “We want to make sure our neighborhoods are vital places where people want to live.”
“This is a City Council that really cares, this is a City Council that really tries,” Young said.
City Council made $20.4 million in cuts to the municipal budget approved in May. Although $3.8 million is being restored, that still leaves $16.6 million in reductions untouched, Qualls said.
“We will be banking some money,” Qualls said. “(But) if you want to grow the city, there are certain basic services you can’t continue cutting.
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