Leslie Ghiz recently tweeted “The budget looms…Thoughts on ways to raise revenue W/O taxing.” It got me thinking, how can the city balance the budget? I would imagine there are few accounting tricks left in the bag to help balance the budget this time around. Real leadership is going to have to emerge to balance this budget.
Councilwoman Ghiz is right we need to increase revenue without increasing taxes. The problem is that increasing revenue without raising taxes takes time, and planning. This will not fix the budget problem in the short term.
So Cincinnati City Council has two choices, either raise taxes, fees, etc. or cut from the budget. To bridge what is nearly a $35 million dollar gap, I don’t see how council can any longer not make cuts to the Cincinnati Police Department and Fire Department given how much of the budget they take up. Believe me, I agree with the conservative block on council, in that the last thing I want council to do is layoff police officers and fire fighters. I have yet to see how the math adds up without some layoffs. My hope would be to minimize the layoffs to the rank and file by making reductions in administrative and non-police/fire personal and expenditures. An internal look at trying to save money by fixing inefficiencies within the departments would save money and jobs as well.
I think it is time for even the most avid supporter of police and fire to acknowledge that with declining city revenues and a declining city population that real cuts to the police and fire budget have to be made. These cuts should be done with care and with minimal impact to the rank and file, but unless someone has a realistic plan that doesn’t cut police and fire, it must be done.
Councilwoman Ghiz is right we must raise revenue without raising taxes. That comes through getting rid of red tape for businesses, working with our school board and neighborhood councils on making all of our neighborhoods attractive places to live, and investing in our infrastructure. This is where the streetcar comes in. It is a project out of the capital fund, and yes the operating cost will be a net loss for the city. But that doesn’t mean that the increase in property values and in turn property taxes would not offset those losses. The city has for years given multi-million dollar tax breaks to companies that have failed to deliver on promises to add jobs in Cincinnati. I am willing to give the city the chance in this project to invest in itself to attract citizens and business to Cincinnati, and in turn increase the tax base.
To increase revenues and to avoid going down the road when it comes to the budget in future years we must increase the tax base through population and job growth. Cincinnati does this by investing in itself through capital projects. We must make our city an attractive place to live not only through outstanding public safety, but with a great school system, strong neighborhoods, and making this city the easiest place to do business in the Midwest.
What does it say for those thinking to come to Cincinnati, if aren’t willing to invest in ourselves through projects like the streetcar? Councilwoman Ghiz is right we must raise revenues without raising taxes, but hard cuts to all departments including police and fire must happen first to balance the budget in the short term.
The short answer to this question is yes it can. Taking police officers and firefighters off the streets of Cincinnati will not only put the lives of other firefighters and police officers at greater risk, it will put your life at risk as well. Some will say I am over dramatizing this situation, its only a dramatization until someone’s house is on fire or until someone is being robbed, or in need of medical attention. With the potential of seconds making the difference between life and death shouldn’t Cincinnati City Council look at every other avenue to make cuts before taking police officers and firefighters off the streets.
Where can the cuts be made? Well at the very least if council is willing to cut the pay of every city worker by 6 days the Council members themselves should be willing to do the same thing. I think it is terrible leadership on Council’s part if they are not willing to cut their own pay and expect everyone else to take a pay cut. In fact I think it is down right arrogant and pathetic that city leaders expect city workers to bailout the city for its gross mismanagement of funds. When I am elected to Cincinnati Council I will put forth legislation that will cut Cincinnati City Council and their office budget by 20%. That is the least Council can do to acknowledge their poor management of funds, and be leaders in cutting costs in helping to balance the budget.
After reading the article in the Cincinnati Enquirer about our city pools not being used it is amazing how some on council still have this nonsensical and insane idea that all pools should remain open. If Councilwoman Cole can look into anyone in this city with a straight face and give a good reason why it is more important to keep a pool that has less than 100 swimmers a day open rather than keeping more police and firefighters on the streets than she clearly doesn’t have her priorities straight and should resign immediately. She clearly should not be on Council let alone the Chairwoman of the Finance Committee because she has shown how she intends on leading this city and how competent she is of making the decisions necessary to lead us through this financial crisis.
We need real leaders in Cincinnati not leaders like Councilman Harris that call our Police and Firefighters “big, fat, spoiled brats”. Why should those that put their lives on the line every day take a pay cut because our Council can’t manage our money? Why not listen to our Firefighters, Police Officers, which say they are willing to make cuts without taking personnel off the streets? We should be using that as a starting point at the least rather than starting out with reducing the number of people that are protecting us.
The fact is Cincinnati City Council has to make budget cuts, but we have to prioritize those cuts. Public Safety has to be number one. There is no gray area with this issue. If we have any hope for redevelopment, and population growth we must feel safe in this city. We must make hard decisions like closing pools that are severely under used, and cutting programs that don’t work and that are already being done at the state level. We also must have a redeployment plan that increases businesses and attracts people to Cincinnati. The budget just like this election is going to determine the direction of our city for the next decade. We have seen what the current Council members have accomplished, isn’t it time we start holding them accountable for the job they have done and elect people to Council that have the people of Cincinnati rather than their political careers as their number one priority?