Mayor Coleman Unveils 2014 City Budget Proposal
Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman today (Friday) outlined his budget plan for 2014. And it's full of black ink. Coleman is head of a financially sound city. It's in better financial shape than most other U-S cities. The proposed $796-million dollar spending blueprint restores most of the budget cuts made during lean years in 2007 and 2008 before the Great Recession. It includes an eight million dollar payment to the city's 'rainy day fund.' Coleman credits passage of a city income tax increase four years ago for the black ink. The income tax is now bringing in more money than projected. Should the tax be rolled back? "No, I've been the mayor through two major recessions," says Coleman. "Overnight, things can change and I've seen that happen. We've had that experience in the city of Columbus, overnight." Coleman cited the recent federal government shutdown as one reason to keep the income tax at 2 and half percent. He says the city has added about 100-thousand people during the last decade while the number of city workers has been reduced by 11 percent. Instead Coleman proposes re-opening all recreation centers full time beginning in April at a cost of $726,000. He calls the rec centers, "points of light." He 'll also add $355,000 for park maintenance. City Council President Andrew Ginther welcomed the mayor's proposal. He says this is not the time to rollback the city income tax. "But now is the time to be restoring services that were cut. That's why we're excited about the rec centers, all rec centers being open full time again." says Ginther. "And, I think we're going to continue to look to see what needs there are in health and safety.to make sure we're restoring services and adding them in critical areas that are going to help neighborhoods thrive." Along those lines, council will be asked to approve the hiring of eight new code enforcement officers to boost the city's fight against vacant and abandoned houses in city neighborhoods. The mayor also wants council to approve stiffer penalties for what he called "irresponsible landlords." Mayor Coleman also proposes the creation of an "education fund" within the city budget. "We have 33,000 children living in Columbus City school district attending "D" or "F" schools. This entire community must continue to fight for these kids," says Coleman. The proposal comes two weeks after school district voters rejected a proposed levy-bond issue to fund a package of school reforms developed by a commission he appointed. The "education fund" will be targeted at what he calls the school's most critical needs. "We will allocate $7.5 million dollars in 2014 for an education fund for educational priorities. We will however, take time to identify areas of greatest economic impact," Coleman adds. Coleman says the city "education fund" will be used to attract more money from the private sector, state and federal governments, foundations, and from the school district. The mayor's budget now goes to City Council for possible changes.