Cleveland City Council continues its budget hearings this week. The process is behind schedule, and some key city department budgets still have to be reviewed. 90.3's Janet Babin has an update.
Janet Babin- Key departments such as Health, Services, Police Fire and EMS, and Community Development have had budget reviews, some key department budgets still remain, including the Department of Port Control, Public Utilities and Human Resources. Council reviews each section of the Mayor's budget estimate as part of the hearing process.
Council Finance Committee Chairman Bill Patmon of Ward 8 presides over the Budget Hearings. It's his job to keep things moving, even when some council members want to make a point about their neighborhoods lacking enough city services.
Bill Patmon- I do vary with the rules to a certain extent, to get us to talk about dollars vs. service, but dollars must be discussed, even when some council members would rather make a point that their neighborhoods aren't getting enough services.
JB- The most vocal council member during this year's hearings is Councilwoman Fanny Lewis of Ward 7. Last week Lewis pointed out that the numbers of the city Health Department budget don't add up. About $3,000 is estimated in the 2001 budget for security services, but no monies were spent for similar services in the past two years.
Fanny Lewis- Something's wrong with this figure. I'm not gonna say you put this figure in -- it's something that we may get. I grant you that all of these monies that we approve now, basically it's money that we know we got one way or the other. Director (Ron Brooks) you keep dancing around my question, I just wanna tell you that we're not idiots sitting around the table -- we're not getting the correct information.
JB- Other council members are concerned as well that more than half of the Health Department's $23 million budget comes from grants that aren't itemized in the budget estimate.
Council also grilled the Division of Police about getting more officers in particular wards, and questioned some of the Final Performance Indicators presented by the Administration. Many council members wanted to know why there were 450 more burglaries this year than last year.
Finance Chairman Patmon says the discrepancies brought out during the hearings will be worked out during reconciliation later this week.
BP- The ultimate authority in Cleveland is a two-thirds majority of city council. That is a process rooted in democracy -- reconciliation ends when council members have 14 votes, or a two-thirds majority, to decide on certain issues that we agreed to disagree about during the hearings.
JB- The budget hearings got off to an unusual start last week, when Cleveland Mayor Mike White broke with tradition, and didn't visit council's committee room with a budget presentation. But last year, after Mayor White presented council with the 2000 budget in it's committee room, council didn't ask any questions, which could also be construed as somewhat of a snub. But Patmon says it's happened before.
BP- That is the second time as a member I have seen that happen...What that was was that the Mayor, we give him his opinion, and at the same time we're not gonna change his mind, if we had gaveled him to order, then it might be categorized as something that we were up to.
JB- Patmon says last year City Council was responsible for $20 million extra being spent on neighborhood projects because of aggressive budget hearings. But Cleveland Finance Director Ron Brooks represents the administration at the budget hearings - he says there's no extra money to be found this year.
Ron Brooks- We presented to them a general estimate of $470 million with associated expenditures of $486 million so there's a shortfall and we are proposing to use -- we have balanced budget using current carryover from last year of $16 million. There is some additional revenues that council has an opportunity to indicate where those I don't see where those revenues are.
JB- Budget hearings are expected to wrap up by Wednesday, with reconciliation lasting till the end of the week. Patmon hopes to have a second formal reading of the budget by March 5th. At City Hall, Janet Babin 90.3 WCPN, 90.3 FM.