Cincinnati City Council holds special meeting to discuss COVID-19 impact on budget, services

Updated: Apr. 29, 2020 at 8:15 AM EDT
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CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Cincinnati City Council is scheduled to discuss the impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on the city’s budgets and services in a special meeting Wednesday.

The 12:45 p.m. session will precede their regular weekly meeting at 2 p.m.

Council is expected to hear a presentation from city administrators “about the economic and operational impacts of the city’s COVID-19 related response efforts, and to consider taking action on ordinances and other related items and expenses,” according to a meeting notice.

City leaders face deficits in both the current budget that ends June 30 and the 2021 budget that must be passed by the end of June. That one is estimated to be $80 million to $100 million.

Budgets took major and unexpected hits due to loss of income tax revenue to the city as a result of an economic shutdown associated with the pandemic.

Ohio’s stay-at-home order went into effect last month and Gov. Mike DeWine’s administration closed schools and many businesses to try to keep the virus from spreading. Large gatherings of 10 or more people also are prevented.

On Monday, DeWine announced some businesses will begin to reopen starting Friday, but the order against large gatherings will remain intact.

Restaurants can only serve carry-out meals. Dine-in service is not available, and it’s not clear when it will be permitted.

City officials recently announced furloughs and pay cuts and say more are coming - and there could be layoffs, though they are trying to avoid those if at all possible.

‘Extreme and devastating:' City furloughs 20 percent of workers, 1,700 employees

Earlier this month, City Manager Patrick Duhaney recommended city council members cut human service agencies by 25%.

“We are facing tremendous challenges ahead," Councilman Jeff Pastor said Tuesday. “We furloughed 1,700 individuals. Everybody has to be feeling the pain....everyone has cut everywhere they could. We just don’t want to cut police and fire, which are critically important during these trying times.”

Mayor John Cranley has said the city’s police and fire departments could face cuts, however, if the city does not receive assistance soon from the federal government.

Recent federal aid that provided trillions in stimulus to the U.S. economy left out cities like Cincinnati.

“There’s no way Cincinnati or Columbus or any city can survive or thrive if local governments suffer the catastrophic loss of revenue that we are projecting right now," Cranley said earlier this month.

He has been advocating for Congress to include local governments in another federal stimulus bill.

Meanwhile, violent crimes is shooting up in Cincinnati amid the once-in-a-lifetime pandemic that is preventing its police force from deploying all of its crime fighting tactics.

Homicides are up 115 percent so far this year, more than doubling to 28 from 12 at this time in 2019, Police Chief Eliot Isaac told City Council’s Law & Public Safety Committee Tuesday morning.

Hours after the chief’s presentation at City Hall Tuesday, the city had two additional homicides.

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