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Cleveland's 2020 Budget Uses Good Times To Gird For Recession

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson presented his $1.8 billion budget to city council Tuesday, his fourth since voters passed an income tax increase enabling the city to expand services.

Jackson plans to continue initiatives begun in past years, such as replacing streetlights with LEDs and staffing recreation centers with social workers focused on trauma. In the 2020 budget, the administration plans to spend $670.6 million from the general fund, which covers many core city services.

Jackson plans to use current flush economic times to prepare for a possible recession, he told council. Cleveland could endure a two-year downtown without having to slash services, he said, following his current budget plans. 

“In order to be ahead of the game, you always have to plan for good times and when times are difficult, and you have to plan for difficult times when times are good,” Jackson said. “That is what helped us during the recession.”

Last year, the city added $5 million to the “rainy day reserve fund,” bringing the total to $37 million.

The mayor is again budgeting for a 1,600-officer police force this year. Cleveland has struggled to maintain that number as it works to stay ahead of retirements.

Councilman Michael Polensek pressed Jackson to bring on more police cadets than the three classes planned for the year.  

“We’re losing, we’re losing ground,” Polensek said. “So as we go into this year, we somehow got to figure out how to put an additional class on in my opinion.”

The city is trying to outpace attrition on the police force, Jackson said, but increased police numbers alone won’t prevent violent crime. The city’s holistic approach to crime includes new police vehicles, a new headquarters, a police data center and security cameras, he said.

Safety officials will brief council on the budget for police, fire and EMS on Wednesday.

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