Ginther’s budget up about 3.7%
Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther rolled out a spending plan Tuesday that includes money to hire more firefighters, change police tactics and help people who are addicted to opiates in 2018.
The $890.6 million general fund budget proposal is about 3.7 percent more than the city expects to spend this year.
Ginther’s second budget as mayor is largely a continuation of last year’s. Income-tax collections, the city’s largest revenue source, are projected to end
the year up about 3.2 percent, and Auditor Hugh J. Dorrian expects that growth to slow next year.
That left little room for expansion in the 2018 budget, which still requires approval by the Columbus City Council. The council will consider amendments and vote on the budget early next year.
“Our values and our priorities are neighborhoods, public safety, opportunity in neighborhoods in particular, the health and well-being and quality of life in our neighborhoods,” Ginther said. “I’m proud of this budget. I’m proud of the investments we made in some new initiatives.”
Public Safety still consumes the largest portion of the city’s budget, but it also is where Ginther highlighted the most changes. The $601.7 million in Ginther’s budget for police, fire and other parts of the Department of Public Safety make up about two-thirds of the general fund. That’s about $20 million more — or 3.5 percent higher — than what the city will spend on Public Safety in 2017.
That includes money for two classes of firefighter and police officer recruits. The city plans
Expenditure Police Fire Governmental Services* Refuse collection Public Service Recreation and Parks Municipal court judges and clerk Development* Health Other safety Reserve payments Basic city services fund Total Rainy-day fund total $73.9 million $75.9 million * Governmental Services and Development: The city allocates money for incentive payments for companies that create jobs to Governmental Services instead of Development. That makes it look as if Development was cut back while Government Services gained. to hire 70 police officers next year, but that will only keep up with expected retirements in 2018. By the end of 2018, the Columbus Police Division will have 1,918 staff members, the same as this year.
Columbus will add more firefighters next year, though. The Division of Fire will have two classes, totaling 80 recruits. That’s 30 additional firefighters after 50 expected retirements.
Fire Chief Kevin O’Connor said the additional firefighters will help with the division’s burgeoning overtime costs, but it won’t solve the problem entirely as the city opens more firehouses. The division's overtime is projected to cost about $10.5 million this year, about $3.6 million more than was budgeted.
O’Connor said the division needs another 200 firefighters to have a full staff. By the end of next year, the Fire Division should have 1,608 staff members.
Ginther said in a news conference last week that he expects Public Safety Director Ned Pettus to develop a plan to double minority representation in both the police and fire divisions in the next 10 years.
Last week, Ginther rolled out a new public safety plan that aims to improve the relationship between police and the black community and to curb a growing number of homicides in the city.
His budget proposal includes funding for that plan, including $2 million to pay officers overtime to cover increased bike and foot patrols by uniformed officers. It eliminates $275,000 earmarked last year for the controversial community safety initiative that has drawn protesters to City Hall.
Ginther’s budget shows a smaller funding pool for the Department of Education, which was established in 2014. That department offers funding to pre-kindergarten providers to turn partial-day slots into full-day.
The proposal reduces the department’s budget from $6.1 million in 2017 to $4.5 million in 2018. That includes a $1.2 million reduction in city funding for the Early Start Columbus program to put more 4-year-olds in pre-kindergarten classes. The city had a goal of putting 1,000 4-yearolds in classes this year, but
next year’s goal will be 900. State and federal funding also are used for that program.
Lombardi said the Early Starts program will continue to receive full funding, but the city’s 2018 budget only includes money for three quarters. The city is lining up the funding with the school year, he said, and will pay for the fourth quarter in the 2019 budget.
Ginther's budget also includes $1 million that the city would set aside to deal with opiate addiction. That plan would focus on prevention and education and expanding treatment, Ginther said, and the city will pursue additional funds from the private sector and the state and federal government.
Four people would be hired in the Department of Health to provide medication-assisted treatment and intensive substance-abuse therapy to opiate addicts.
“I’m sick and tired of hearing state and federal leaders talk about the need for an evidence-based, comprehensive community plan they can invest in,” he said. “They have one here. It’s time for the state and federal government to step up and fund this plan so we can deal with this epidemic.”
Columbus plans to set aside about $2 million next year for its rainy-day fund, which should have about $76 million by the end of 2018. The city has a goal of depositing $80 million into that fund by 2020.