Cleveland Mayor Bibb's first budget funds top-level reorganization, Issue 24

Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb speaks at Tower City Center
Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb, shown here at Tower City Center discussing the NBA All-Star Game, unveiled his first budget proposal Tuesday. [Nick Castele / Ideastream Public Media]

Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb released his first $1.8 billion budget proposal Tuesday.

To balance the budget, the mayor is using $56 million left over in city coffers at the end of Mayor Frank Jackson’s administration. The city carried over $131.7 million from last year – an unusually high amount, thanks to Cleveland’s allocation of federal coronavirus dollars.

In a letter accompanying the budget, Bibb warned of the hit that municipal income tax collections could take from suburban commuters working from home during the pandemic.

“As we look ahead, there is uncertainty around income tax collections during 2022 as a result of taxpayers applying for refunds due to working from home during 2021,” Bibb wrote. “At this time, it is unknown what the potential impact may be.”

Bibb proposes to boost spending within the mayor’s office. He is budgeting $3.6 million for the office, an increase over the $2.7 million Jackson budgeted last year. In fact, Jackson spent less than that – $1.6 million – in the waning months of his administration as top staffers departed.

The new mayor alluded to the growth within the mayor’s office in his transmittal letter, writing that it was part of his plan to restructure and modernize City Hall.

“The first step to modernizing city operations is creating new organizational structures and roles to meet the demands of our time,” Bibb wrote. “We are building the capacity of the Office of the Mayor to focus on our most urgent priorities with the creation of new cabinet and senior positions.”

Bibb has made hires to new senior strategist positions focused on equity, communications and operations. He also plans to hire a senior strategist to coordinate the city’s efforts against lead poisoning.

Last year’s passage of Issue 24, the police oversight charter amendment, has also made an impact on proposed spending.

The mayor is allocating another $1 million to the law department to carry out Issue 24, part of a nearly $3 million increase to the department’s budget.

“This increase allows us to attract and retain talent and expertise internally and save on outside counsel as we work to deliver police reform, strengthen code enforcement, settle outstanding cases and hire a Chief Ethics Officer to embed accountability across the organization,” Bibb wrote.

The Community Police Commission’s budget is growing to $2.1 million, a substantial raise over the $528,000 spent last year. That increase includes more than $1 million – or half of one percent of the size of the police budget – for community grants, as required by Issue 24.

Bibb is budgeting $223 million for the Cleveland Division of Police. That’s a 6% increase over the amount spent on police last year.

But in order to meet that spending target, the mayor will need to bring on more officers, continuing a fight against attrition that challenged the prior administration. The 2022 budget pays for 1,640 uniformed officers. By the end of last year, the city employed 1,402.

The mayor proposes a $2 million increase in public health spending to staff two mobile health clinics. Overall, he would spend $13 million on the public health department. Last year, Jackson budgeted $11 million for the department but only spent about $9.5 million.

Cleveland City Council will begin hearings on the budget Feb. 22. The annual financial plan must be approved by April 1.

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