CINCINNATI — Cincinnati City Council took its first look at the proposed city budget for 2021 on Monday; Mayor John Cranley and city manager Patrick Duhaney released the budget proposal last week, totaling roughly $411 million.
The current proposal increases police funding by around $1 million, something demonstrators and protesters throughout the city have been pushing back on as the idea of reducing funding for police and increasing it for other civil and human services becomes a rally cry on social media.
Cincinnati council member Chris Seelbach said he would not support a budget that increases spending on police, while decreasing funding in all other departments, like parks and recreation. During the meeting, he also cited hundreds of emails he's received over the last two weeks demanding change.
"We cannot continue to increase funding for police while cutting all of these departments that are already 1,000 people less than they were 21 years ago," said Seelbach. He challenged Duhaney, asking why this is happening.
"We have to fund a holistic city, and maintaining public safety and keeping our neighborhoods safe and our shootings and murder rates down is important as well," said Duhaney.
Under the proposed 2021 budget, police funding is at about $155 million, up roughly $1 million from last year. A majority of the increases comes from FOP union labor increases. There are areas of decrease, like delaying recruit classes and holding vacant positions.
City leaders said the city has never given a directive to decrease spending on police, until now.
"At least for the last 7 years that I have been back, we have said that we want a budget that maintains current police and fire staffing levels," said council member David Mann. "If that’s not our position, say so."
Others argued that it's already too late to make dramatic changes to the budget proposal. A finished budget is due from council by June 30.
"I am very much on board with that, but here's what I also realize: We’ve got to have this budget done by June 30," said council member Wendell Young. "I don’t think there’s enough time between then and now to make this budget look the way it ought to."
Mann agreed, reiterating that he did not believe it could be done by the deadline either.
Public budget hearings are set for Tuesday, Thursday and Friday this week, at the Duke Energy Center. A few hundred people have already signed up to speak via the public meeting's Zoom option.