Dayton Mayor says budget cuts will be big if federal government doesn’t step up

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Nan Whaley

Nan Whaley (WDTN Photo/Chris Smith)

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley told WDTN.com in late December that 2019 had been, “The worst year of my life.

Coming into 2020, Whaley expected Dayton’s biggest challenges to be keeping its rolling economy moving and dealing with the emotional and mental issues following the Memorial Day tornado outbreak and the Oregon District shooting. Instead, the city is fighting the COVID-19 outbreak and figuring out how to make its budget work after the economy was essentially shut down in March.

“Most cities, particularly Ohio cities, they are funded through income taxes,” Whaley told WDTN.com on Wednesday. “When people aren’t working there isn’t funding for these basic services. We want the federal government to step in and help like they have for businesses.”

Whaley said there is $1.2 billion from the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act the state can allocate to local communities. A bill has been sent from the Ohio Senate to the Ohio House. She said it was expected to pass next week.

“Dayton would receive a little under $7 million in funding on that bill,” Whaley said. “It still has to go through the Statehouse, which is an unknown. In comparison, Montgomery County received $93 million.”

Because of the outbreak, city tax collections for April were moved back three months. Whaley said the city doesn’t have an exact number on how hard the city will be hit, but every department has been told to look for 18 percent in cuts.

Dayton had streamlined the city budget during the Great Recession when Whaley was a City Commissioner, meaning muych of the fat was trimmed a decade ago – and the coming cuts will be worse.

“We believe this will be a factor of two or threes as worse as the cuts made (during the Great Recession),” Whaley said. “You’ll definitely see these cuts. Because we are so thin already, it will be basic city services if we don’t get some help.”

Whaley said basic services would include police, fire, trash pickup and everyday maintenance like mowing grass. She said people living and working in the city would see the impact.

The concern over the lack of funding is spread across the country. Whaley participated in on a call on Tuesday with the U.S. Conference of Mayors about economic shortfalls related to the pandemic.

More relief could be coming – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled a bill in Congress on Tuesday. As part of a $3 trillion stimulus package, the bill would have $1 trillion in relief for local governments, cities and municipalities.

Whaley said the state has shown character during the outbreak and quarantine orders. Ohio was one of the first states to lockdown during the outbreak. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton hailed Ohioans for following quarantine orders and keeping the number of COVID-19 cases well below estimated numbers. She said part of the grit in the Dayton-area comes from what the region went through in 2019: the Memorial Day tornado outbreak; the Oregon District shooting; the tragic death of two children after a man stole and crashed a police cruiser and the killing of Dayton Det. Jorge Del Rio during a drug raid.

“I think we are disaster-tested,” Whaley said. “This community has responded well. I think people are tired. There’s definitely fatigue in our organization. We get up every day and fight for the community we love. It’s hard on the staff for sure. You go through all this, people perform heroically and it’s really egregious when the federal government has bailed out so many for-profit organizations.”

The text of the Ohio Senate Bill for local funding is available on the Ohio Legislature website.

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