Cities face budget crunch, many blame Kasich

Posted at 11:57 PM, Mar 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-22 06:06:09-04

Cleveland City Council passed the 2016 budget Monday night, but not before voicing their concerns about the city’s lean finances.

Mayor Frank Jackson said he was able to balance the $566.7 million general fund budget without any major cuts or layoffs, but admitted city services will remain at a status quo. At this point, there’s no money for improvement.

"It will be felt everywhere. Everywhere across the board. We cannot increase our capacity," Jackson said. "We can't hire more police officers, we can't hire more building inspectors to inspect vacant properties, we can't hire extra people to cut the lots more often." 

Mayor Jackson also pushed for his half-percent income tax increase, which people will vote on either this November or next spring.

The increase would put the city’s income tax at 2.5% and give the city about $82 million in 2017, which would cover a proposed deficit and give the city enough money to actually improve safety and services in Cleveland.

"This is not a budget that makes me happy at all," said Councilman Jeff Johnson. "It is one that is difficult, one that is painful."

Meanwhile in Lorain, the city is grappling with a $3.3 million budget deficit and has to find the money before March 31st.

Last week, Mayor Chase Ritenauer proposed an ordinance to city council that would set the retirement age for police officers and firefighters at 57. Currently, there is no maximum retirement age in the city. The set retirement age would affect dozens of firefighters and police over the next 5 years.

The plan was met with hostility from the police union and just hours before it was set to be heard at council Monday, Ritenauer withdrew the proposal.

However, it’s not completely off the table. Council members will speak with the community for their input on the issue this Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. during a committee meeting.

Lorain's chief of staff said they operate with about $30 million annually.

But council members in both cities — and many across Northeast Ohio — place the budget blame squarely on Governor John Kasich’s shoulders for slashing local government funding back in 2011.

In Cleveland, Mayor Jackson said it resulted in a loss of $30 million for the 2016 budget. Over the course of the last four years, it has totaled a loss of about $111 million.