Public safety, lakefront development among Cleveland mayor's budget priorities
Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb wants the city to focus its spending over the next year on violence prevention and public safety, East Side neighborhood development and transforming the lakefront.
The mayor released an executive summary of his proposed 508-page budget to Cleveland City Council, which will hold hearings, possibly put through amendments and pass it by April 1.
The city’s total budget estimate, according to the mayor, is $1.948 billion, up from $1.872 billion budgeted last year.
Bibb's summary said the city is "committed" to taking a comprehensive approach to violence prevention.
That would entail focusing on strategies that address the root causes of violence and crime, investing in education and developing a comprehensive response to individuals in mental health crisis.
He highlighted investments last year in public safety and the creation of the Community Police Commission, and said in 2023, the city hopes to create and implement a 10-year violence prevention strategic plan, which will inform future investments in violence prevention.
Bibb said the lakefront is one of the city's greatest assets.
"Through the first year in office, the Bibb Administration took swift action to kick-start lakefront redevelopment," the report reads, "accelerating the North Coast Connector study of a land bridge to connect downtown to the Lake, initiating a master plan for the downtown lakefront, investing in the next phase of the (Cleveland Harbor Eastern Embayment Resilience Strategy) plan adjacent to Gordon Park, and evaluating the potential economic impact of closing Burke Lakefront Airport for the enjoyment of all who work, visit, and play in Cleveland."
The city, Bibb said, will "continue to seek feedback" from residents and use the results from the North Coast Lakefront Master Plan and the Burke Airport economic development analysis to take "data-driven and community-informed steps" toward new developments.
Bibb said his administration is committed to investing in the city’s East Side, to reverse decades of disinvestment.
“Cleveland's East side has endured decades of continuous disinvestment, exacerbating generational poverty and the litany of negative outcomes that accompany it: blight, safety concerns, poor educational outcomes, inadequate housing, shorter life expectancy, and absence of jobs,” the report said.
He listed a host of proposals and in-progress initiatives on that front:
- Executing the “Putting Assets to Work” initiative to identify and put city-owned parcels into use for new developments.
- Unlocking the full potential of Cleveland’s “commercial corridors,” particularly the Opportunity Corridor.
- Reforming the city’s nuisance abatement process through a task force to deliver “swift responses to improve neighborhood quality of life.”
- Streamlining the city’s lead hazard abatement process, along with more outreach to owners and tenants. Cleveland.com recently reported that 80% of rental properties have not yet been certified as lead safe after two years.
- Investing American Rescue Plan Act money into home repairs and gap financing for homes.
- Investing $10 million to grow a new pipeline to increase the number of local workers in infrastructure, construction, lead abatement and clean energy projects.
The report notes that the city received an upgrade on its bond rating in 2022, from A1 to Aa3; it's been more than 12 years since that last happened.
The budget estimate includes a new way to calculate staffing costs in each department. Bibb uses the number of employees in each department as of December for this year's budget, instead of the number of employees each department anticipates it will need, as was done in previous budgets.
That raises questions about the number of patrol officers Bibb thinks are needed. Last year's budget set that number at 1,362. This year, the budgeted number is 1,041, the same number on the payroll in December.
Further down in the budget, there is a line for 206 "vacant uniform" officers, which include supervisors along with patrol officers. That budget item does not have a dollar amount attached to it so money would have to come from elsewhere in the budget to hire those additional officers.
The city has increased its income tax collection as well, from $463 million compared to $441 million in 2019. And the city last year added $20 million to its Rainy Day Fund and $90 million to its Payroll Reserve Fund, using American Rescue Plan Act money.