From Cincinnati city councilman David Crowley
December 15, 2006
I Move that the following changes be made to the City Managers’ recommended 2007 budget:
$400,000 be allocated to expand the Ceasefire Cincinnati program.
$2.8 million allocated to fund Human Service programs in 2007. These funds should be allocated to Human Service agencies based upon the recommendations of the Human Services Advisory Committee (attached) as opposed to earmarks decided by City Council as was done two years ago.
That the Office of Environmental Quality be moved from the Health Department in order for it to become a stand alone agency that reports directly to the City Manager. This change will require an additional $75,000.
The Internal Audit budget be increased by $82,000.
$300,000 be allocated to the Center for Closing the Health Gap in Cincinnati in order to fund a health disparities study.
$125,000 for the Greater Cincinnati Film Commission
The Health Department meet its 6.2% reduction amount without closing a health clinic by implementing the other cost saving/revenue producing measures the Department has proposed.
Total General Fund Expenditure Additions: $3,782,000
The City’s retirement system contribution will be reduced from the 21.77% proposed by the City Manager to 18.3% thus freeing up $2.44 million in general fund dollars.
The $1,045,400 800 MHz System Maintenance project in the 2007 RCC budget be paid for with capital fund dollars not general fund dollars thus freeing up these funds for other general fund purposes.
Implement 25 additional police officers in each 2007 and 2008 as opposed to the 40 in 2007 and 25 in 2008 as proposed by the City Manager. These 50 new officers will be used to restore the neighborhood officer program that was dismantled by the Police Department in early 2006. This will save $271,440 in the 2007 General Fund.
The 2007 Citizen Complaint Authority budget be reduced by $50,000.
Total General Fund Expenditure Reductions: $3,806,840
The Homeowner Rehab Loan Program be reduced by $500,000. The Housing Maintenance Services Program budget should be increased by $500,000.
The $1 million annual revenue realized from the sale of the Blue Ash Airport be equally divided and allocated annually to the newly created Economic Development Opportunities fund and the Neighborhood Housing/Commercial Development fund in order to create two long-term capital development funds.
The newly created Economic Development Opportunities Fund be reduced from $3 million to $2 million dollars in 2007. The Neighborhood Housing/Commercial Development fund be reduced from $2 million to $1.5 million in 2007.
Underground Railroad Freedom Center will receive $500,000 for capital improvements.
The $1 million RCC 800 MHZ system maintenance project be funded with capital fund dollars not general fund dollars.
The City Administration, led by the City Manager, should be complimented on providing City Council and the Mayor with a well-crafted and balanced budget. They had the very difficult task of reconciling the various priorities of the City Council with the very significant $28 million budget deficit. While City Council Members are not likely to agree with every recommendation the good work performed to this point should be applauded.
Safety clearly remains a major issue for our City and many of our residents. Ceasefire Chicago and similar programs in other City’s have had a dramatic effect in reducing violence. In September Ceasefire Cincinnati was launched in Avondale. The program is simply aimed at stopping violence now. Providing financial support to enable this project to expand will be money well spent.
While $2.8 million is far less than the 1.5% of the general fund as City Council unanimously adopted in June of 2006 (#200600630) this amount will allow for the continuation of the 2006 budget with a modest increase in funding. If general fund revenue exceeds projections in 2007 reinstating the 1.5% amount in 2008 should be examined. The needs of our citizens go beyond just safety, peacekeeping, and sanitation. Therefore a commitment to continue our long and proud tradition of providing support for Human Services in the City of Cincinnati is needed. The current Human Services Policy prioritizes funding based on the severity and urgency of various problems. These priorities include helping to fund programs for the homeless, at-risk youth, and citizens with disabilities.
On August 2, 2006 (#200600661) City Council approved the creation of an Office of Environmental Quality (OEQ) in Cincinnati. In response the City Manager has proposed creating such an office in the Health Department. After several discussions with city officials, the Mayor and representatives from the environmental community it has become clear that an OEQ that reports directly to the City Manager is needed in order to ensure that this office has the appropriate standing and flexibility required to deal with the many serious environmental issues facing our community and our workforce.
At the direction of the Internal Audit Committee, the Internal Audit Division conducted a comparison of other cities to ascertain the appropriate staffing and budget to provide adequate internal audit coverage. Internal Audit’s resources are very limited when compared to other similar cities. The recommended budget of $391,000 is less then half the average budget of comparable cities. Staffing which is currently at three internal auditors is 50% of the Council approved staffing just four years ago. Last year alone the cost the cost avoidance to the City as a direct result of the Internal Audit Division was $1,619,000. To increase these savings in the audit cycle and to maintain the appropriate audit coverage for the City of Cincinnati, the addition of another internal auditor, which will result in 4 full time auditors, is needed immediately.
It is easy to see that a disparity in healthcare exists in Cincinnati. However in order to get to the root causes of the disparity we first have to understand the extent of the problem in a scientific fashion. The Center for Closing the Health Gap in Cincinnati is prepared to move forward with this very important work. It is also important that the Film Commission continue the great work that they have begun. The major motion picture that is scheduled to start shooting soon in Cincinnati is evidence of this. In addition to the positive exposure that these films bring Cincinnati they also bring dollars and investment.
The City Manager has recommended funding the retirement system at 21.77% while the Mayor has suggested a 17% level. Funding at 18.3% provides a significant increase in the City’s portion of funding and still allows many other immediate general fund priorities to move forward. The 800MHZ system maintenance project is vitally important however this type of infrastructure maintenance is better paid for through capital dollars. Additionally the Underground Railroad Freedom Center is a true beacon of light for the City. Making a capital investment now will ensure it remains a jewel for our City.
In order to free up capital dollars to pay for these expenditures money can be taken from the Economic Development Opportunities and the Neighborhood Housing/Commercial Development Funds. These funds will be replenished with the annual dollars the City is to realize from the sale of Blue Ash Airport thus creating a permanent Economic/Housing Development project cash flow.
The Chief of Police has indicated that he did not request 100 additional police officers. Further it is clear that due to the time it takes to recruit and train the additional officers they will not have an immediate impact on police visibility or crime reduction. The City Manager’s recommended budget provides $2.7 million in 2007 for police overtime for Operation Vortex and operation Take Back Our Streets, which will have the immediate impact of getting additional police officers on the streets. The Neighborhood Officer Program was a highly successful and popular program with the communities it served. It provided a community with one officer who could serve as their liaison between the community council and the Police Department. If we are going to add additional officers it makes sense to restore this effective program.
The recommended CDBG budget cuts People Working Cooperatively’s (PWC) 2007 budget, who manage the Housing Maintenance Services program, by $600,000. At the same time their budget is being cut their completion goal of 1500 housing units is 500 more than the 1087 they completed in 2005 (see attached). The critical housing maintenance services that they provide help keep people dry in the summer and warm in the winter. Additionally PWC leverages $1.30 for every dollar given to it by the City and has over 4,000 volunteers who participate. A partial restoration of their budget will allow them to continue the essential services that they provide.
While the Housing Maintenance and the Homeowner Rehab program are both important, given the limited amount of resources available for housing in the CDBG budget, it makes more sense to direct those resources to programs that emphasize fixing thousands of existing homes as opposed to completely rehabbing a few new ones. For example the $1.5 million being recommended in 2007 for the Homeowner Rehab program will provide loans to rehab 18 homes. The amount remaining in the Homeowner Rehab program will allow for a goal of 12 rehabbed homes in 2007.
David C. Crowley