Dayton budget, possible shutdown is a ‘manufactured crisis,’ commissioners say

Dayton City Commissioners Darryl Fairchild and Shenise Turner-Sloss on Friday defended their decision not to vote in favor of the city’s 2023 budget this week, saying it did not include their priorities and the process the city used to develop the proposal was not transparent.

After the budget did not pass on Wednesday, city officials and the other three members of the city commission warned that failing to get it approved soon would lead to an unprecedented government shutdown in which city services would cease to operate on Jan. 1.

Mayor Jeffrey Mims Jr. and Commissioners Matt Joseph and Chris Shaw said Turner-Sloss and Fairchild were being reckless and negligent and were holding the city hostage.

They also said Fairchild and Turner-Sloss did not make their demands known and weren’t willing to try to find a solution at the commission meeting Wednesday.

But Fairchild and Turner-Sloss on Friday said this is a “manufactured crisis” and the city can and must make changes to the budget to address their areas of concern.

“I did not join the commission to be a rubber stamp on bad policy that was decided behind closed doors,” Turner-Sloss said. “I have continued to fight for a transparent and inclusive city government that meets the priorities of the commissioners and the residents who we represent.”

She added, " Unfortunately, this budget process has failed that expectation.”

The city commission plans to hold a special meeting on Saturday at City Hall to consider passing the budget or proposed temporary appropriations ordinances.

Fairchild on Friday afternoon also said he had a meeting scheduled later that day with the city manager.

Commissioner Joseph earlier this week said he thinks Wednesday, Dec. 14, is the deadline to get the budget approved without serious consequences.

City officials told this newspaper that if a budget is not passed by emergency by Dec. 16, every day after that the city would not have the spending authority for payroll expenditures.

During the press conference on Friday afternoon, Turner-Sloss said she did not approve the recommended budget because the public did not have adequate time to sufficiently vet the proposal.

“There were only seven days between the full budget becoming publicly available and the vote to pass it by emergency resolution,” she said. “That is not a transparent or inclusive process.”

Turner-Sloss said it makes no sense that the city waits until the last month of the year to pass a budget by an emergency measure when the city has all year to get it done and share it with the public.

Budget workshop sessions with the city commission and heads of city departments were held on Nov. 16 and 30.

“An annual budget is not an emergency,” she said. “We should never be in a hurry when it comes to the allocation of public dollars.”

The mayor and Commissioners Shaw and Joseph insist that Fairchild and Turner-Sloss had ample opportunities to raise their concerns about the budget before it went to a vote, but they did not speak up.

The trio said they were blindsided by Fairchild’s and Turner-Sloss’ decision to abstain from voting on the budget.

Shaw accused them of pulling an ill-advised political stunt that could cause real harm that puts the city’s nearly 140,000 residents at risk.

“Refusing to pass a budget is dangerous, irresponsible and not what we were elected to do,” Shaw said.

Turner-Sloss and Fairchild said they have told the city manager about their priorities on multiple occasions, but those priorities were not reflected in the budget.

They both said there should be enough time to make changes.

Turner-Sloss said the budget did not address housing priorities she identified over the summer from feedback from public input meetings and surveys.

She also said the closure and lack of staffing of fire station 10 on South Broadway Street has reduced access to emergency services in a largely minority area, and that must be reversed.

She said the Human Relations Council’s current staffing levels are insufficient to ensure the organization can fulfill its mission and meet demand.

Turner-Sloss said there isn’t enough time to get the public involved in the 2023 budget in a meaningful way before the deadline.

But she said would be willing to support the proposed 2023 budget if her colleagues and city leadership commit to hosting seven public hearings about its budget proposals in city neighborhoods moving forward.

“A commitment to improved public participation and transparency, along with a consideration of priorities I’ve previously stated, is enough to earn my support,” she said.

At Friday’s press conference, Commissioner Fairchild said he made a promise when he ran for reelection that he would ensure the city’s $138 million in federal COVID rescue funding would be invested in removing blight, improving neighborhoods and investing in young people.

He said the city’s 2023 budget fails to invest in young people and does not adequately address blight and neighborhood improvements.

Fairchild said the city indicated earlier this year that it would spend $15.8 million of its rescue funds to demolish 850 structures.

He said the city now says it will only spend $12.4 million to tear down 655 homes. He said this is a big difference and he does not think that’s right and needs fixed.

Fairchild said the city needs funding to support youth recreation, civic engagement, workforce development, mentoring and mental health services.

“Budgets are moral documents,” he said. “Either our children are a priority or they’re not. If they are a priority, we need a budget that reflects it.”

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