City manager plugs $32M budget hole, with no layoffs or city pool closures

City manager plugs $32M budget hole, with no layoffs or city pool closures
Posted at 4:39 PM, May 31, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-31 20:21:20-04

CINCINNATI -- The city won’t lay off employees, cut services or close facilities – despite a $32 million budget hole – under Acting Cincinnati City Manager Patrick Duhaney’s proposed budget for next year.

Duhaney unveiled a $1.1 billion balanced operating budget Thursday. His plan avoids layoffs and deep cuts to services such as city health centers or pools.

The city is facing another tough budget this year, due in part to the loss of state funding, and city income tax collections that fell $8.6 million short of expectations.

For several years, city leaders have scrambled to dig out of budget holes caused, in part, by lower than predicted income tax revenue.

And this year is no different.

“Overcoming a $32.1 million budget deficit to create a structurally balanced budget is no small task,” Duhaney said.

His proposal preserves key city services and a new police recruit class. He budgets $13.6 million to pave streets and replace old police cars, snow plows and fire trucks.

Duhaney also recommends a $1 million increase to the Emergency Communications Center budget, and 10 more staff. This is on top of the more than $9 million spent on technology and equipment upgrades to the center over the past two years.

In order to close the budget gap Duhaney is recommending at least one idea that former City Manager Harry Black tried last year, and council ultimately rejected – booting illegally parked cars with outstanding tickets.

Some of Duhaney’s other plans to plug the budget gap include:

  • Delay the start of the next police recruit class by six months from July until January 2019, to save the city $2 million.
  • Cut funding to all outside agencies to save $2.5 million. Some groups, such as REDI Cincinnati, get a 50 percent cut, from $250,000 to $125,000. Others get a less drastic 25 percent cut, such as the Center for Closing the Health Gap. A city audit of the Health Gap revealed questionable billing practices, improper spending and charges to the city for political action work. Last year the Health Gap got $750,000 in city funding; Duhaney recommends cutting it to $562,500.
  • Increase parking meter rates, add meters in Over-the-Rhine and extend meter hours, to raise $2.9 million.
  • Increase building permit fees and other program increases to yield $4.1 million.
  • Raise waste hauler franchise fees and administrative fees for developers.
  • Cut city department spending to save $9.4 million, and keep some jobs vacant.

The budget now goes to Mayor John Cranley, who has 15 days to make recommendations before the budget goes to city council to approve by June 30.

City council will hold three public hearings on the budget in neighborhoods:

  • McKie Recreation Center in Northside, June 11.
  • Madisonville Recreation Center, June 12.
  • College Hill Recreation Center, June 13.