Cincinnati Council approves budget by 5-4 vote

May 30, 2013

Cincinnati Council officially balanced the budget Thursday for the next fiscal year that begins in a just a few weeks.  But once again the plan relies heavily on one-time sources and juggling other funds to close a $35 million deficit.  

There are no police and fire layoffs, but some 60 other city employees will be out of work.  

Residents can also expect some city services to be affected... plus two recreation centers will close and five city swimming pools will be shut down after this summer.  

Council Member Yvette Simpson voted to approve the budget, but she still has concerns.

“I feel concerned with what 2015 is going to look like, I feel concerned about the fact that we still don’t have revenues that are sufficient for the needs and the desires of the citizens within the city of Cincinnati,” Simpson said.  “But it’s our job to keep the city running and we need a budget to do that.  This is the best option that we could come up with in the time that we have.”

Council approved the main general fund budget ordinance by a 5-4 vote.

Council will face the same budget problems again next year.  And this year’s budget solution will likely add to next year’s deficit.  

Some Council Members are calling on their colleagues to begin the search for solutions right away instead of waiting until next spring to balance the next budget.

Council Member Christopher Smitherman voted against the spending plan.  He said the majority plan isn’t perfect, but it does make steps in the right direction.

“There were some baby steps here and I think as we look at 2015, I’m willing to work with any of my colleagues around costs savings that deal with our regional partners,” Smitherman said.  “I do believe that there are some costs savings there.”

Council Member Laure Quinlivan voted against the plan because it doesn’t right-size public safety.  She’s also issued a challenge to her colleagues.

“And if you believe the right thing to do is to raise revenue with a garbage tax or an earnings tax, I will vote with you to put it on the ballot and see if citizens go for that,” Quinlivan said.  “They’re not going to go for that.  They want us to live within our means and do what they’ve already done.  That’s what I believe.  If any of my colleagues have a plan so solve the problem, I would love to hear it.”

Council Member P.G. Sittenfeld voted against the budget ordinance.  But he offered this perspective.

“We’ve been here before and I would argue the city is getting better, not worse,” Sittenfeld said.  “And we’re going to continue to get better, not worse.  So while this was a difficult budget, and it might not be the last difficult budget we face, Cincinnati is still without question on an upward trajectory.”

The budget takes effect July 1st.

The city manager originally planned to use $25 million from leasing most of the city’s parking facilities to the Port Authority to balance the budget for the next fiscal year.  But that plan is on hold because of a court challenge and a likely voter referendum in November.