Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman today unveiled the 14th budget proposal of his tenure.
Mike Foley has details.
Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman proposed a $796.7 million budget for next year with four priorities - replenishing the city's rainy day fund, restoring services at the city's recreation centers, intensifying efforts to restore or demolish abandoned property in Columbus and investing in education. Coleman says the city will allocate $7.5 million for educational priorities.
Coleman - We will take time to identify the areas of greatest economic impact for our children and assure that real progress toward reform is achieved. With this investment we intend to leverage additional dollars from the private sector - from foundations, the federal and state government and the district itself. We will keep our promise to create a lasting partnership with the private sector, the district and the community that will work collaboratively on the best ideas for implementing real and lasting change in our schools. And we will keep our promise to appoint a director of education to serve as an ex officio member of the Columbus Board of Education and lead our city's engagement in the education of our kids.
Coleman says while the failure of the levy is a reality, the failure of kids in the city is not an option - and right now he says that 33,000 kids are attending D or F schools. More recreation center services will be available to kids and their families under Coleman's budget proposal. Coleman says the city will invest $355,000 for maintenance and more dollars to restore full time service at rec centers.
Coleman - Starting in April, all of our neighborhood rec centers will be open full time. Some of them remained in a part-time level because of the budget. So, we're gonna spend $726,000 to open all those rec centers - those include Milo-Grogan, Holton, William H. Adams, Tuttle, Sullivant Gardens and Douglas.
Another priority for Coleman - neighborhood blight. The mayor says the city will continue efforts to renovate abandoned properties that can be saved while demolishing the others - and pushing greater accountability and penalties on lax landlords.
Coleman - We have 300 structures that have been demolished, 88 are in the demolition process, another 508 parcels have been requested for expedited foreclosure through the county prosecutor.
In the past six years, we have renovated more than 300 homes, sold 155 structures to private buyers who have invested their own money to renovate previously abandoned houses.This 2014 budget will further enhance our code enforcement efforts. This budget invests about $600,000 more to add 2 new teams of 4 code enforcement officers. These 8 constitute a new unit that will be proactive in addressing and in going in targeted areas where there have been experiences of greatest challenges and they'll be in those areas and they'll be proactive.
It's Coleman's 14th budget as Columbus mayor and he says in the two recessions that hit during his tenure - one following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the more recent financial collapse in 2008 - the city tapped its rainy day fund for $90 million. The city has been replenishing the emergency fund since 2009 and Coleman wants to add another $7.6 million. That would bring the city's rainy day fund to $64 million by the end of next year. Columbus City Council will now analyze Coleman's proposal. President Andy Ginther says he agrees with the priorities, but expects some amendments.
Ginther - One of the things I've heard from my colleagues - are there other initiatives and basic city services that could be enhanced and made stronger. We engage with community and neighborhood leaders all the time. So, some of my colleagues have been talking about approaching problems in a different way with different departments. But I think this is a great start to the budget process. I support what's been proposed and have been talking with the mayor and administration for months now as they've put this together and finalized it. But my guess is that there are gonna be ideas and strategies that come from the public that will enhance and improve this budget by the time we pass it.
Council will hold a series of public hearings over the next several weeks before passing a budget in early February.