CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Cincinnati City Council met Monday, in a Budget and Finance Committee session, to tackle the city's budget deficit of $33 million.
By a 5-4 majority, Council members Wayne Lippert, Leslie Ghiz, Amy Murray, Chris Bortz, and Charlie Winburn proposed $19 million in cuts. Those cuts did not include any reduction of the police force, although Councilman Winburn later said that council needed to take a look at the administration budgets of both the police and fire departments and "trim the fat" there. Council members Roxanne Qualls, Wendell Young, Cecil Thomas, and Laure Quinlivan were the minority vote.
Councilwoman Murray told the group, "For me, when I read the city manager's report, I was shocked that out of 5000 city employees, and we decide that the first 44 we should lay off are patrol officers...to me it just seems irresponsible that we would even be putting that forward."
The proposal to save those police officer jobs comes on the assumption that the city will be receiving a federal grant to help cover the cost of the officers' salaries. If that grant fails to come through, it's likely council will have to revisit the issue.
The other issue that brought on heated debate was how nurses in Cincinnati Public Schools ought to be funded. Councilman Bortz said, "There is no other school district in the state of Ohio that has their school nurses provided by the municipality. This is simply transferring costs to the appropriate body. The schools have a $250 million operating budget. I'm sure they can pick up the 650 thousand (that the city has been contributing) to fund what they consider such a critical service."
But Councilman Thomas was completely opposed to the idea of letting go of that funding, "If we have an understanding that all of us are going to participate, and make sure our children get the needed care so they can learn, and then we sit up here and have the audacity well that's not our responsibility...well, it is our responsibility."
Mayor Mark Mallory took issue with another suggestion, which is the elimination of the city's Office of Environmental Quality. However, even if the office were to be eliminated, some staff would still be retained, and transferred directly into the city manager's office. However, Mayor Mallory called that idea "ridiculous" saying that "The OEQ has won $23,566,237 in grants and saved $1,036,871 on the City's energy bills and saved an additional $930,731 through the enhanced recycling program."