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Cleveland City Budget Gets Second Reading

Mar 03, 2023

Cleveland (March 2, 2023) -- City Council tonight gave preliminary approval to Mayor Justin Bibb’s proposed $1.9 billion annual budget, which includes more than $710 million in the General Fund for daily operations and services.

The approval was in the form of a “second reading.” Three readings are required for passage and adoption. By law, Council, which has the power to make changes to the spending plan, must approve a balanced budget in March so that it is finalized by April 1.

Council began back-to-back budget hearings beginning February 14, pouring over every detail of the 500-page document and hearing from every city department and division.

Summoning its oversight power, Council made some changes to the proposed budget, including restoring positions that had been eliminated, including six positions to the Department of Building and Housing. Those were added back by Council, which has made housing and apartment inspections a priority to ensure the city’s homes and buildings are maintained. An example of where Council believed more intense city involvement was needed was for the deplorable conditions at Shaker Boulevard apartments that left residents without heat and water through much of last year.  

Two additional positions are to be added to the Office of Equal Opportunity for oversight on community benefits agreements, but also to ensure adequate monitoring and enforcement that falls under OEO – including ensuring that developers are meeting minority, female, small business, and resident hiring goals and that they are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Council members continue to have staffing concerns when it comes to Cleveland’s Division of Police and whether the administration’s goal of getting 180 through the police academy (there’s an 11-member class currently) and hiring a total of 206 officers is realistic.   

Council members had discussed and proposed several cuts, including eliminating open positions in various departments that have been chronically unfilled, to reduce the budget. The administration found other places to make reductions. However, Council plans on holding a mid-year staffing conversation with the administration and examine the staffing levels at that point.  

“We emphasized last year that Council members expected a structurally balanced budget,” said Council President Blaine A. Griffin. “We’ve added to the budget and then proposed several ways to balance it, but the administration has made cuts in contractual areas, and money left over from some earlier projects, so it remains structurally balanced. 

“They emphasized at this time they didn’t want to eliminate some of the unfilled positions that were identified that would have reduced the budget.”

Council also:

·         Added $60,000 to the Department of Community Development’s Professional Services to provide wage and benefit increases for Healthy Homes Initiatives staff located at CDCs. Council had introduced the initiative in 2019 to deploy Community Engagement Specialists across Cleveland neighborhoods to connect residents and landlords to healthy housing resources, education, and training.

·         Added $100,000 for Youth Arts Programming. The funding is an outgrowth of Councilman Kevin Conwell’s “Play it Forward” program to get youth involved with music lessons of their choice.

·         Added $125,0000 funding per ward for Capital Repairs ($75k from the General Fund and $50k from the Restricted Income Tax Fund). The funding is vital to jump-start a project or close it out. For example, Council President Griffin used this to add a turning lane on E. 105th Street necessary for the Meijer supermarket project.

·         Funding so that the members of the Black Women and Girls Commission members will be compensated. The commission has yet to be seated. Legislation is forthcoming for the compensation.  

·         Council agreed to add funding to update Case Western Reserve University’s Neighborhood Strategy Technology Web Application (NST). NST allows users to access information on property ownership, occupancy and vacancy, foreclosure, sheriff's sale, and REO history, detailed tax information, code enforcement information, demolition information, property surveys conducted by area agencies, and more. 

Council cannot make changes to the document after the second reading.  The budget must “sit” for seven days after publication in the City Record. The third reading and council vote is expected Monday, March 20th