COLUMBUS, Ohio (WMCH) — Mayor Andrew Ginther announced on Thursday his proposed 2023 general fund budget — the largest ever in Columbus history.

The city is proposing a budget totaling $2.3 billion, with $1.1 billion dedicated to programs, services and youth enrichment. Specifically, Ginther is proposing two specific initiatives: one targeting middle-school children and another supporting the Hilltop Early Learning Center, opening next year.

“It’s another great example of opportunity rising — those kids are going to enter kindergarten ready to learn and thrive and succeed in k-12 settings so that’s what this investment is all about,” Ginther said about the center.

The proposal sets aside $3.1 million for expenses at the center.

“This investment in the Hilltop will really transform so many children’s lives,” said Gina Ginn, CEO of Columbus Early Learning Centers.

Ginn said the investment is key for the center’s success. The proposed funding will cover so much more than operating costs.

“Will help with operating costs of the center, teacher pay, it will help to increase teacher pay for early childhood leaders across our city and then it pays essentially the tuition if you want to call it that for every child so that this building can operate and be successful,” she said.

Ginther is also focusing on middle-school children.

“We’re stepping up and investing $2 million in partnership with the Boys & Girls Club and other partners to start providing after school programming in the beginning of the year with this budget as well as growing that investment in the following school year,” he said.

In addition, 62% of the $1.1 billion for services and programs is aimed at public safety. Ginther announced those initiatives earlier this week. Ginther said connecting with youth early is an key element to curbing violence.

“Prevention, intervention, enforcement, and we need all of those things,” said Ginther. “That’s why we’re investing in historic levels for new police officers and firefighters while investing in the office of violence prevention and the youth programming all at the same time.”

The proposed budget will be presented to the city council and go through a series of public hearings before receiving approval. Read the full budget here.

The comprehensive proposal includes the following:

  • More than $2.3 million for summer, after-school and job-readiness programming to keep youth safe and engaged.
  • $3.1 million for operating expenses at the Hilltop Early Learning Center.
  • Additional staff to support the Columbus Housing Strategy.
  • $10 million in Human Services Grants for social services organizations that provide support for vulnerable residents and neighborhoods.
  • $6 million to increase recycling to once a week citywide.
  • More than $2.1 million to reduce illegal dumping by expanding refuse collection to include hot-spot inspections; opening two convenience centers for residents to properly dispose of hard-to-recycle items, food and yard waste, hazardous waste and bulk items; and hiring more drivers for refuse trucks.
  • Expected balance of $95.2 million in the city’s Rainy Day Fund by the end of 2023.