Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson spent three hours talking budget with the city council Finance Committee Tuesday.
He said an income tax hike voters approved in 2016 is paying for beefed up services. He reeled off the numbers from 2018: more police officers, more EMS, more tree trimming, more road services. It’s a far cry from the layoffs the city made in 2004 and 2008.
But Jackson warned council to curb their enthusiasm. The mayor said he hasn’t forgotten the recession years.
Jackson projects the city will end this year with a $43 million carryover, but he wants to save it in case Cleveland needs to ride out another recession in 2020.
“Without having to do layoffs, without having to do service reduction, without having to eliminate services,” Jackson said. “Then when we break through on the other end, then we just carry on.”
Jackson’s 2019 budget calls for replacing every streetlight with LED bulbs and installing 1000 security cameras, especially around parks and recreation centers.
He said the money from the tax hike allowed the city to hire more police officers last year than were retiring.
“What we put in place in ’17 and was really able to kick in and have it fine-tuned in ’18, was an infrastructure that allowed us to outstrip attrition to the point that now, if you count cadets, we are now above budgeted strength,” said Jackson.
The city was budgeted for 1610 officers and now has 1639 police officers.
Jackson was asked by several members about mini-police stations that were sacrificed in money-saving cuts in 2004.
“I’m not going to say yes or no to mini stations, but if you force me I’m going to say ‘no.’ So, I’m leaving it open so you don’t make me choose,” said Jackson. “You can have a discussion, but the police will determine for me the deployment activity.”
Several members discussed other projects they would like to see funded.
Councilman Kerry McCormack suggested a way to ensure affordable housing exists in gentrified neighborhoods. Councilman Basheer Jones wanted ways to fight racism.
Mayor Jackson, a long time council member himself, was sympathetic and told the group to take the long road. He said he didn’t become mayor for the title.
“I’m mayor because the position of mayor is a great tool to accomplish something. And those things I intend to accomplish are not superficial but things of substance. But they’re difficult so you have to stay on your game.”
Jackson told council issues of race, class, and poverty will take “every day engagement on a consistent basis.”