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Government and Politics

Cuyahoga County Council is ready to vote on new budget, but concerns linger
There's bipartisan concern over proposed funding for some new health and human service programs

Kevin Niedermier
Courtesy of Cuyahoga County
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Cuyahoga County Council is set to vote Tuesday on its next two year budget proposal. Earlier this week council approved the $460 million health and human services portion, which funds the county’s MetroHealth hospital and many other social service programs.

But, as WKSU’s Kevin Niedermier reports, there was bipartisan concern over some additional funding requests from County Executive Ed FitzGerald.

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The appropriations in question involve funding increases and funding new programs with the extra $29 million from November’s levy approval.

Council has passed all but one of the 20 items County Executive FitzGerald submitted. The one that failed was a homelessness coordinator. Republican Councilman Dave Greenspan voted against that, but he had even bigger reservations. In fact, he voted only voted for an additional $8 million for MetroHealth. He says he’s not against funding the other programs, but wasn’t given enough information about how they would operate.

Expectations and timing concerns
“So, if that position is, for example, to service X number of people, or to provide a certain level of service, what are the expectations of that position today?  Because without that there’s no accountability. Because a  year from now, they’ll say we expected to achieve X, but we achieved X minus. But that’s OK because we really didn’t have any expectations.”

Greenspan says these internal funding requests should have the same information that bids from private contractors must provide for things like roadwork. The two other council Republicans also voted no on many of the items. There is also concern that the administration presented many of the items to council after Tuesday’s meeting had started.  Democratic Councilwoman Sunny Simon voted against  funding for three of the new programs because she didn’t have time to properly examine them.

“We didn’t have an opportunity as we typically do, to ask the questions in the fashion we’re accustomed to. And there wasn’t an opportunity for us to send these to committee to vet them. It’s a timing issue. And there was no plan presented to us from the administration with any detail about what they proposed.”

More time to consider the information
The county’s deputy chief of staff for health and human services, David Merriman, says the administration will answer any questions council has. And, he says the vetting process is far from over.  

“Following this stage as we bring forward contracts to provide the services we will bring them back to council as well. So there will be another opportunity for council members to ask whatever questions they have.  And, all of our contracts go before either the Contract and Purchasing Board, the Board of Control or council.”

If council approves its budget next week, Executive FitzGerald is expected to quickly sign the $1.3 billion spending package for  2014-2015.

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