Some 56 percent of the General Fund is allocated to public safety.
Among investments: IRS site, Farmers Market, City Hall, affordable housing
COVINGTON, Ky. – Continued work to develop 23 vacant acres downtown. A permanent building for the Covington Farmers Market. Work to address slippage on the Licking River levee. Recruiting help for the police and fire departments. Progress toward the first stand-alone home for City operations in 120 years. Protecting neighborhoods from blight and dilapidated buildings. Affordable housing initiatives.
Thanks to an influx of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, the $167.6 million budget approved last week by the Covington Board of Commissioners for the fiscal year that began July 1 is more robust than usual – investing not only in basic services like public safety, roads, and job creation but also in facilities and large initiatives that will strengthen the city and build a better future for residents.
“A city’s budget is the blueprint for its priorities and its vision,” City Manager Ken Smith said. “Our new budget not only focuses on improvements to our core services but also provides for some truly transformational projects.”
The budget was fashioned after months of discussion by City leaders, including a series of Saturday meetings where the Commission heard staff proposals and debated priorities.
The process was made more intense and exciting this year as City leaders decided how to spend $35.9 million in ARPA funds, whose inclusion essentially turned the 2022-23 budget into three budgets:
The General Fund, which totals $69,213,228, uses familiar tax and revenue streams and allocates money primarily for staff and operations. Some 56 percent of the General Fund goes toward public safety (fire and police).
Whereas the General Fund portion of the budget is essentially a status quo spending plan, the good news, according to interim-Finance Director Jerome Heist, is that revenue projections show growth. Payroll tax revenue, which is the biggest contributor to the General Fund, in particular shows strong growth, and the next highest contributors – the insurance license fee, property taxes, and the net profits tax – are steady or show slight growth.
Separately, the “All Other Funds” budget, which totals $92,581,994, uses more than two dozen dedicated funds to invest in the City’s future. These funds get revenue from a wide variety of sources, including federal and state grants, bond proceeds, trusts, annual federal allocations, and other dedicated sources. The money is likewise used for a wide variety of expenditures, such as housing assistance (down payment grants, emergency home repairs, and housing choice vouchers), playground renovations, improvements in Devou Park, vehicles and equipment.
Included in the All Other Funds part of the budget this year is a little over $30 million in ARPA funds. (The 2022-2023 budget allocates that money, but specific requests to spend it have to be approved separately by the Commission.)
Regardless of where the revenue comes from, the budget includes these line items in addition to the funding of operations and core services:
IRS SITE: Over $7 million to continue preparing 23 acres downtown for private development, including design of horizontal infrastructure (streets, parking, utilities, etc.). A separate line item sets aside $100,000 to begin marketing the site.
COVINGTON FARMERS MARKET: $650,000 to design and find a site for a Farmers Market building.
CITY HALL: $710,000 to design a new City Hall that would represent the first stand-alone home for City operations in 120 years.
- $937,000 to repair the Licking River levee near Oakland Avenue.
- $1.7 million for street resurfacing and repairs.
- $100,000 to improve pedestrian access in Eastside.
- $325,000 to complete the new Public Works complex on Russell Street.
- $1 million for expanded affordable housing efforts, including increasing the amount of assistance for new homebuyers from $7,500 to $10,000.
- $455,000 to expand free Wi-Fi access through Covington Connect. About 34,500 unique users have registered to use the site, completing over 1 million sessions.
- $125,000 to create a homeowner repair program in qualified census tracts.
- $750,000 to address neglected and blighted properties.
- Increased focus on efforts to preserve property values and protect the health and safety of residents from nuisances and property issues. This includes money to outsource some rental inspections and hire an additional Code inspector.
- New street trash containers and a new Solid Waste & Recycling staff member.
- $200,000 for neighborhood-designed projects.
- $250,000 to create and program a City-Schools Recreation Commission.
- $120,000 toward renovating the Carnegie Arts Center.
- $200,000 to continue rehabbing Barb Cook Park.
- $200,000 for improvements at Goebel Pool.
- $125,000 for a new park or playground in Westside.
- $50,000 for a disc golf course at Devou Park.
- $52,500 for Devou Park trails (to accompany outside funds).
- $450,000 for a rebuilt Austinburg Park.
- $100,000 for a rebuilt playground and shade structure at Clayton Meyer Park.
- A new cadet program for firefighters and an expanded cadet program for police officers that would help City public safety officials recruit.
- Three staff vehicles for the Fire Department.
- Five Police cruisers, two Park Ranger vehicles, a new crime lab van, and a traffic unit motorcycle.
- New fire equipment and renovation of space at Fire Co. 1.
- $125,000 toward a workforce development program focusing on Restoration Trades.
- $150,000 for small-business loans.
- $400,000 for a new program to support disadvantaged businesses.
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