Cuyahoga County Executive, Council Reach Budget Agreement
by Nick Castele
Cuyahoga County officials have reached a budget agreement. The two-year, $2.9 billion budget spares the mental health board from cuts and puts new money toward preschool and reducing infant mortality.
For much of this year, Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish has warned that the county needs to get a better handle on spending. He proposed a budget with small overall increases over the previous two years—and some noticeable cuts.
In negotiations, county council restored $6.7 million that had been proposed in cuts to the addiction and mental health board, bringing total funding up to about $39 million. Council also restored or increased funding for senior centers, homeless services and some youth and parent programs.
MetroHealth Medical Center, on the other hand, will see a 19 percent reduction in its subsidy from the county over last year.
The budget does fund some new initiatives, such as $1.5 million to reduce infant mortality and $10 million for increasing the number of seats in high-quality pre-kindergarten programs.
Budish said he’s also requesting philanthropic support for pre-kindergarten.
“Our goal is to have a very significant fund that will support high quality pre-kindergarten education throughout the county,” he said in an interview. “That’s very expensive, so our $10 million is a small investment compared to what we need to raise from other sources.”
Budish’s administration is also spending between $10 million and $11 million each year for an economic development fund. He had asked for more money, but council cut back.
The county will also spend $8 million each year reimbursing cities for demolishing vacant homes and buildings.
Republican Councilman Dave Greenspan, the chair of the finance committee, spoke well of negotiations.
“And we’re going to continue to work together,” he said. “This is not just because we’re four weeks ahead of the scheduled deadline that now the collaboration stops. It actually needs to intensify.”
The budget is scheduled for a final reading and vote on Dec. 8.