COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther is proposing the city’s largest-ever operating budget for 2022. The mayor outlined his plan during a press conference Monday morning.
“The City of Columbus is on strong financial footing,” Ginther said during a news conference Monday morning. “We have not been without challenges – financially and otherwise – but, with care and precision, we have protected meaningful programs, avoided crippling cuts and are actually investing more in city services and our residents than we ever have before.”
He explained although the COVID-19 pandemic created economic uncertainty, a combination of previous years’ savings, financial management, and federal relief dollars will help bring the operating budget above $1 billion.
The mayor was flanked by directors from the Department of Public Service, Department of Public Health and the Department of Recreation and Parks at the Reeb Center on the city’s southside.
“The top 3 priorities are neighborhoods, neighborhoods, neighborhoods,” Ginther said, pointing to the roles each department plays in creating safe, equitable neighborhoods.
Ginther highlighted the following investments as part of his budget priorities:
- More than $660 million — nearly two-thirds of the entire budget — to support the Department of Public Safety, including additional police and fire recruitment classes as well as funding to implement the updated Comprehensive Neighborhood Safety Strategy
- More than $2 million for programming and operating expenses at the Hilltop Early Learning Center
- Additional staffing and services to expand support for the Department of Development’s Small Business Program
- $5 million in Human Services Grants for social services organizations that provide vital support for vulnerable residents and neighborhoods
- Funding to keep community centers open six days per week and expanding Recreation and Parks staff to better support summer programming and events
- Significant investments in refuse vehicles and equipment to continue to counter illegal dumping and help keep Columbus neighborhoods clean and vibrant
- More than $10 million for Sustainable Columbus, including energy and water efficiency in Opportunity Neighborhoods, a clean-energy workforce program and a Green Fund to support energy sustainability efforts among residents and nonprofits
“We’re embracing fresh ideas and supporting proven solutions to promote safety and well-being all across our city,” Ginther said.
The Department of Recreation and Parks would use some of its allocated money to repair or replace security cameras at its parks and extend its 5-day programming to 6 days.
Columbus Public Health would focus not only COVID-19 testing, vaccinations, and education, but also on improving access to everyday healthcare and public safety services.
“Public health services are needed now more than ever,” said Columbus Public Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts.
Additionally, the city is also focusing on a sanitation issue exacerbated by the pandemic and expected to grow with anticipated population growth.
Jennifer Gallagher, the Director of the Department of Public Service, said, “More households will need weekly trash pickup.”
She explained the demand for trash services jumped by nearly 25 percent in 2020, with a surge of people working and learning from home. Funding would allow the city to expand its fleet of trash trucks and hire more workers to prevent and mitigate illegal dumping and more frequent refuse pickup.
Mayor Ginther also proposes investing more than $10 million for Sustainable Columbus, a clean-energy program promoting energy and water efficiency, as well as a clean energy workforce development program and grants for sustainability efforts. He said the city plans to unveil its climate action plan in the coming weeks.
Ginther touted many of the initiatives and priorities laid out Monday as ways to bridge disparities between economic classes, neighborhoods, ages, and racial groups. He also said the city is already working with the state to tighten its purse strings and plan ahead for future revenue lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the scope of any losses likely won’t be calculable until next year, the Department of Finance and Management said it already reserved $7 million as a precaution. The mayor explained draft remote work legislation in the Ohio General Assembly could lose the city money from income taxes. Currently, Ginther said half of the city’s workforce commutes from outside of Columbus, but those workers pay income tax to the city. 79-percent of the city’s operating budget comes from money generated by income tax revenue.
The mayor explained he’s working with the Ohio legislature to explain the impact of changes to the income tax legislation.
“We could potentially use those [American Rescue Plan] resources to make sure our recovery is dynamic and inclusive,” he said.
The city charter requires the mayor to present a balanced budget to City Council on or before Nov. 15. Over the next month, City Council will begin budget deliberations, including public hearings. It is expected to approve an amended budget in early 2022.
The full budget can be viewed at: columbus.gov/2022budget.