COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The City of Columbus is once again proposing a historic operating budget for 2024.
Thursday, Mayor Andrew Ginther announced a $1.19 billion proposal. City leaders credit the ability to make this record-high proposal to growth of the city and addition of high paying jobs contributing to robust income tax revenues.
Ginther said the budget focuses on neighborhood safety, affordability and core city services.
“My top three priorities remain as they always have been: neighborhoods, neighborhoods, neighborhoods. By embracing continuous improvement and listening to the voices and concerns of the community, we will remain nimble and responsive to the needs of all our residents,” Ginther said.
The biggest chunk of money is going toward public safety.
The mayor is proposing $753 million, 63% of the operating budget, to go towards neighborhood safety. He said they are planning to make investments to strengthen non-police emergency response teams for mental health situations and also to strengthen officer technology.
$4.5 million would go toward the Office of Violence Prevention the city created this year.
The proposed budget covers costs to keep up commands in zone 6 — which is a new police zone covering parts of Linden and Lincoln King-Bronzeville which often see violent crime.
One of the biggest things is increasing emergency personnel. The proposed budget would include three new police and fire classes. This should add up to 150 new officers, 10 lateral transfers as well as 150 new firefighters.
Ginther said although recruiting has been a challenge in the last few years, the divisions are starting to use innovative ways to reach potential recruits.
The mayor said a major goal is to also improve the diversity of those classes.
“We will continue to make progress with both police and fire, but the chiefs know how important that is to me. I made it very clear: I want the diversity of the police and fire divisions to reflect the diversity of this community. We know that we are not there yet but, Chief Happ and Chief Bryant have a plan and they have the resources,” Ginther said.
The proposed budget also includes $21 million for summer youth programming to help reduce juvenile crime. This includes after-school and job readiness programming as well as traditional summer camps.
The proposed budget includes $19.2 million for expanding affordable housing. The mayor said he is calling on the region to double the amount of affordable units that come on the market every 15 years at every price point. He said he also has plans to fund classes for homebuyer education.
The proposal also includes $1 million to support the small business fund and $450 thousand for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Another $10 million would go toward maintaining city services like weekly recycling.
Ginther said the city expects $101 million to be in the rainy day fund by the end of 2024.
He must now present the budget proposal to city council before Nov. 15. Council will be expected to start budget deliberations and public hearings before it is officially approved.