City Council Passes $970 Million Operating Budget
Directs $40 Million to Reimagine Public Safety, Help with COVID-19 Recovery, Uplift Families and Support the Small Business Community
[COLUMBUS-OH] After 22 hours of public hearings, multiple town halls, focus groups, surveys and robust debates, City Council passed the $970 million operating budget during the March 1, 2021, regular meeting. The budget focused on COVID-19 response and recovery, supporting families and stabilizing small businesses. It continues essential City services while firmly supporting a commitment to Reimagining Public Safety.
“We believe this budget supports the needs of our community and advances the work to address systemic racism,” said President Pro Tempore and Finance Chair Elizabeth Brown. “The pandemic underscored serious issues facing our city when it comes to equity and justice, and we are eager to solve them.”
Along with the budget, Council appropriated funding to address specific areas of the community based on their committee work. Each priority was developed using community feedback, industry research and data. Council's amendments represent over $40 million in funding to address urgent priorities.
- President Shannon G. Hardin: Create an Alternative Crisis Response operation to ensure residents receive the appropriate and necessary care during mental or behavioral health crises and traumatic events.
- President Pro Tem Elizabeth Brown: Fund financial empowerment initiatives and programs which support economic stability and financial freedom for women and families, particularly women of color who continue to be disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and wage disparities.
- Councilmember Mitchell J. Brown: Allocate funding that supports prosperity and upward mobility amongst seniors and at-risk youth. Fund workforce development programs that reduce barriers for residents reentering society from incarceration.
- Councilmember Rob Dorans: Provide funding for initiatives that expand workforce development and training opportunities that stabilize families and provide jobs. Expand utility assistance programs to support family struggle to pay bills during the pandemic.
- Councilmember Shayla Favor: Develop and fund initiatives that support the equitable treatment for residents seeking to attain, remain and own safe, affordable housing. Direct funding toward cultural events and programming that support racial equity.
- Councilmember Emmanuel V. Remy: Support employment programs that directly impact neighborhoods through the Cleaner Columbus Employment program. Investment in New American, immigrant and refugee employment programs.
- Councilmember Priscilla Tyson: Support and fund programs and initiatives that align with the Local Food Action Plan to reduce food insecurity. Continue to support the implementation of the recommendations from the Commission on Black Girls report.
“My top priority is the establishment of an alternative crisis response operation,” said Council President Shannon G. Hardin. “For too long, we’ve asked police officers to handle every situation, from mental health crises to violent crime. This new vision for crisis response aims to give residents the care they need, when they need it.”
The 2021 operating budget directs $10 million to the Reimagining Public Safety effort, including more than $1.5 million to invest in neighborhood-based violence intervention strategies, programs for youth, equipment and emergency medical training for officers and more. This is in addition to Council's approval of Mayor Ginther's proposed $1 million to create of the Civilian Police Review Board and the Office of the Inspector General, as passed by voters in November 2020. This funding increase will expand alternative crisis response efforts like the Mobile Crisis Response initiative, allowing Public Safety to partner with healthcare professionals to provide alternative mental health services and referrals instead of jail time.
More than $36 million is allocated to eviction prevention, tenants' rights, housing discrimination and funding for a director-level administrative position to focus exclusively on an affordable housing strategy. The City’s commitment to strengthen pay equity, upskilling the City’s workforce and expanding access to technology is also addressed in the budget.
Nearly $10 million in funding is allocated to support the City’s needs to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While COVID-19 numbers are decreasing, we need to continue pushing till we’re on the other side of this pandemic,” said Hardin. “This budget provides additional resources to ensure everyone in Columbus has the opportunity to access a COVID-19 vaccination."
Overall, the 2021 operating budget puts the needs of people first. It works to stabilize families through substantial investments in affordable housing, financial empowerment and COVID-19 recovery.
“Big challenges call for bold solutions, which is what this budget puts forward,” Brown continued. “As we support the needs of our diverse community through this budget and beyond, we will continue to prioritize the voices of residents to guide our work.”